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FOOD, Inc. is Hungry For Change

Rachael is part of our team dedicated to answering emails, letters and phone calls from our customers. Food, Inc.When films like FOOD, Inc. (in select theaters on June 12th) open, people always contact us with questions about how we do things at Whole Foods Market. Sometimes the questions come from people who are our long-time, loyal shoppers and sometimes they come from those who are brand new to us and want to learn more. Some of my teammates and I checked out an advance screening of FOOD, Inc. so we could get a head start on answering the possible questions coming our way. Check out a trailer of the film:
FOOD, Inc. takes a peek into the supply chain of much of the food we eat and talks about the consequences of the way food is currently grown, raised and processed. Consequences like deadly new strains of E.coli, epidemic obesity, type II diabetes, pollution from pesticides and feedlots, and the effect this system has on people in the industry. Although this subject matter sounds both complicated and mind-numbing, FOOD, Inc. presents the information in an engaging and interesting way. I know that many of our shoppers are aware of the issues and concerns of the current industrial agriculture system and that they shop with us because we offer an alternative. I thought I would share some of the things in the film that I found compelling, and how we do things differently at Whole Foods Market. For me, one of the most jarring aspects of FOOD, Inc. was the perspective on how the patenting of Genetically Modified (GMO) seed has changed farmers and those in the agriculture business. The film looks at how Monsanto's GMO crops have affected people like seed cleaner Moe Parr, who was sued by Monsanto for something as seemingly innocuous as saving seeds. Seed cleaners go to farms at the end of every planting season and clean seeds so they can be saved and planted the following season. This seems innocent enough, but since Monsanto owns the patent to their seeds, it is illegal to save them and farmers must buy new seed from Monsanto to plant the following season. Even if a farmer did not plant a Monsanto crop, farmers are held liable if cross-pollination occurs and patented seed or plants are found in the farmer's possession. Parr was sued by Monsanto and fought them in court until he could no longer pay his legal fees. Whole Foods Market has long been concerned with the effects of GMOs, and we have partnered with the Non-GMO Project, a non-profit organization created by leaders in the organic and natural products industry to develop an industry-wide non-GMO product standard that will allow us and other manufacturers to verify that products are non-GMO. We also formulate our Exclusive Brands products to avoid GMO ingredients and we champion organic products, which by law cannot include GMO ingredients. FOOD, Inc. also looks at the cheapness of processed foods and how that is affecting the health of our country. The film follows one family through the drive thru and to the grocery store, where they opt not to buy broccoli because it is cheaper to buy a large bottle of soda. The family talks about the hundreds of dollars they spend on the father's medication for diabetes and other health issues, and they see the correlation between nutrition and health, but they feel they can feed their kids more food for less money by buying dollar menu hamburgers and soda, and so they don't see a way out. Trust me, this had me feeling sad and scratching my head. At Whole Foods Market we're committed to the idea that you don't have to spend a lot to eat well. Our stores offer value tours to teach customers how to shop on a budget, and our Whole Deal program offers money-conscious recipes, coupons and the items we feel are Sure Deals - the best deals in the store. The film also addresses meat production, and our shoppers always tell us that one of the most important issues to them is the way our meats are raised. At Whole Foods Market we are passionate about animal welfare, and we have worked hard to develop rigorous standards for our meats that have taken into account the comfort, physical safety and health of the animals. The poultry and meat we sell are raised without being administered antibiotics or added growth hormones. Through on-farm visits, we collect and verify information from all of our producers about raising and handling practices, feed, facility design, environmental conditions, employee training, medical practices and animal welfare at the farm, in transportation, and throughout processing. We offer both grain-fed meats and grass-fed alternatives. At Whole Foods Market, we are all about choices. FOOD, Inc. lifts the veil on a number of issues in the food industry, and whether you resolve to eat locally, organically, non-GMO or just healthier, we are proud to offer quality food choices that you can trust, as my Team Leader Margaret always says, "whatever your food trip!" Once you see Food, Inc. let us know what questions it brings up for you. Enter a comment below and we'll work on addressing them in future posts.

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91 comments

Comments

Mim says …

Dear Rachael, I, too, am excited to see the issues of GMOs and industrial agriculture being brought into the mainstream by an upcoming film like this. These are concerns I have had for many, many years and it is just great to think of how many millions of people are about to be exposed to what may be new concepts to them by the release of this film. I'd like to preface my 2 remarks in this comment by stating that I applaud so many of the steps Whole Foods has taken over the years to offer better choices to humans. Way to go on this. I've been a loyal Whole Foods customer for over a decade. And now, having thanked you, I want to ask Whole Foods to raise the bar. The fact that the majority of your organic produce is now coming from industrial organic monoculture from two giant California farms (Earthbound and Cal-Organic) is not something you or I can feel good about. I don't know whether Food Inc. will specifically raise these issues, but as you know, monoculture is the opposite of what nature intended and what the Organic movement intended. The potential for crop failure, food borne illness and habitat destruction is inherent in the monoculture system, and as a small organic farmer, I urge you to seek out contracts to replace industrial organic monoculture businesses with true organic farmers who are passionate about biodiversity and sustainability. In addition to this, the amount of fuel used to transport crops from California to your distant locations is incredibly wasteful when local needs can be supplied by local farmers. It's because I care about Whole Foods that I want to see you raise the bar regarding this. Finally, I would like to ask a specific GMO-related question about 2 of Whole Foods' products. We grow as much of our own food as we can, but do not yet currently have the ability to produce our own Flour Corn. Because of this, we purchase 2 organic processed corn products from Whole Foods. The first is your 365 Organic White Corn Tortilla Chips. The second is your 365 Organic Corn Tortillas. I am well-aware of Whole Foods stated no-GMO policy in organic foods, but I would like to ask specifically: 1) Where does the corn come from for these 2 products? 2) What exact testing is done to ensure that the corn used in these 2 products has not been contaminated with GMOs? Which tests? How often? Where are they performed? I would really appreciate your transparency and information on this so that I can feel confident about continued purchase of these two products for my family. Thank you for taking the time to read my comment. I hope the release of this movie will bring in a flood of important and good questions for Whole Foods. That's an outcome we'd love to see! Mim VeganReader.com

Eric Milano says …

As I understand it, the terms "free range" and "grass-fed" are not well regulated. I wonder what sort of guarantees WF can give its customers that its meats are what they say they are. I know that free range can often mean nearly identical conditions to your typical factory farm, and that all cows are initially grass fed, and so you can legally call any cow grass fed. FRESH is another movie that just came out and features Pollan and Salatin and talks about these issues. It also talks about the alternatives. After seeing FRESH I decided to become a vegan a few months ago (and it couldn't be easier with a WF across the street from my work :-). I care about the welfare of livestock animals, and want to see them treated as humanely as possible.

Connie Kenny says …

Things are getting pretty crazy when you can be sued for your healthy organic crop getting contaminated by Big Business's GMO pollen. Where is the logic? Who is responsible for that decision? Where was public opinion? All this for hassle for wholesome, uncontaminated food, that if we just grew it as nature intended, the least amount of energy would be expended.

Vince says …

Fantastic post.... I hope all many people come to the site to see it.... The time has come for we, the American consumer, to take back control of our food supply.... Thank you for putting the information out.

Alan Fulte says …

"At Whole Foods Market we’re committed to the idea that you don’t have to spend a lot to eat well." This comment in your review confuses me. I have found enriched flour and high fructose corn syrup in many of your products. I chose not to buy these products and bought a more expensive alternative.

Phyllis F says …

So why are you still selling the GMO Silk soymilk?

hans r herren says …

Dear Rachel, Thanks a lot for that film...saw the trailer only but will not miss the whole film. As the co-Chair of what is now known as the IPCC of agriculture, the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) which reports have just been published under the title of "Agriculture at a Crossroads" by Island Press and are available as PDF's on http://www.agassessment.org, I fully support the needed change on the way we do agriculture. In fact the IAASTD Report mentions "that Business as usual is no longer an option" and that agriculture needs to radically change course, away of the industrial model, that is killing the natural bases of food production, the soil and also very demanding in energy in from of fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and diesel. There are many alternative ways of producing the total food needed today and tomorrow, when we will be 2.5 billion more people, this contrary to what the agro-industrial lobby wants us to believe, including a number of professors that are also on the dole of the industry. Agriculture does not want to be dependent on a few input suppliers. We have to revitalize the rural areas around the world, but number one paying the farmers a fair price for the food they grow. Governments need to stop production subsidies, that have only made the rich farmers richer and driven out of business the small farmers. Same story with the green revolution, that has benefitted few and harmed many. The fact that in a world of plenty food, the hungry are in this situation because they are poor and have no access to food. Food prices have to go up, reflect the true costs, that include the externalities, now carried by the taxpayers. Cheap food as requested by the consumers, and above all the ones in the wealthy countries, must be a matter of the past. Its better to pay more and eat less but of quality. we all will be healthier, nature too. Our children will have a future too. The poor of the world will also be better of, as many being farmers will have more income and so get out of poverty. People in the cities will have to also start paying for farm products that are non food.....i.e., ecosystem services such as clean water, air a landscape to go relax and enjoy wildlife. I also very much object to the latest advertisement campaign of lies by the Monsanto and Syngentas of the world, claiming that they will save the world by promoting sustainable agriculture through genetic engineering. What they will do is line their pockets and destroy further the farming community with lawsuits, more herbicides and pesticides (because their products do and will require more of these as times goes by). They now have already monopolized the term sustainable agriculture as they did with the term "IPM" for integrated pest management, which was originally developed to curb unnecessary pesticide application, and which they then turned into another way of selling more and more pesticides again. Food products are not commodities and need to be treated with respect as we have to treat the earth. Food as a commodity is now so cheap that we are wasting some 40% of it! Change is needed...radical change at that. I am pleased that there are many new movements that are supporting the needed changes and ready to start a major opposition movement to the further industrialization and globalization of agriculture. The consumers in the end are holding the key to the change. They need to change the behavior of seeking out the cheapest food and realize that be doing so they are increasing their health bill as well as their taxes. The time to change behavior is NOW.

amy says …

What makes you think Silk soymilk is made with GMO soybeans? It's not.

Shanon says …

I am in the process of deciding whether or not to give up meat and one of my main concerns is the oft-discussed subject of ensuring food animals are humanely raised and treated during their lifespan. My second concern, however, is one not often discussed...or at least not easily found in my research...which is the process by which these animals are killed. I do not have an issue with killing animals for food, per se, but do have an enormous issue with what I've read about the brutal treatment and processing of food animals before and during the slaughtering process. I realize that calling any type of killing "humane" is a bit of an oxymoron, but it is possible to make the death as quick and painless as possible. I understand animals used for Kosher meats are killed humanely, but I am in an area where obtaining Kosher meats is practically impossible. My question is, what -- if anything -- do you do to ensure the animals used for WF meats are killed humanely? Also, in reading your Meat Quality Standards, I noticed several omissions that raised questions: 1) Your statement on physical alterations is vague. Do you allow tail-docking for your pigs? 2) "Range-raised" might be meant to imply grass-fed, but short of a statement to that end, does not satisfy my interest on that subject. What are your animals fed and from what source(s) is the feed obtained? Finally, I'd like to second the concerns of others who've posted here re: selling of HFCS, trans-fats, and GMO-derived products in your stores. There is a competitor of WF in my area that guarantees all of its products are free of HFCS, trans-fats, and GMO-derived ingredients. While I love WF, frankly, the guarantees of this competitor make it MUCH easier to shop there than at WF. Please work towards addressing this issue so I can continue to shop at your stores.

Robin says …

My opinion is that the food industry is like an onion. There are so many aspects & layers to it. Not all producers & sellers are a like--much like the variety available in the onion family. Some of them are marvelous, flavorful and beneficial...others are strong and can make you cry. I wish that more people cared about our food, but I have come to realize that even people who visit local farmers markets are completely clueless about food, how it's grown and where it comes from. The thought of 'seasons' is foreign to them....it disgusts me that at 'farmers markets' I can find shrink wrapped produce with a grocery store PLU sticker still on it...grapes from Chile sitting right next to beets, oranges, potatoes, peaches, kale, lettuces and tomatoes of all varieties all available in Chicago land the first week of June? Green house or not, the purveyors who brought these didn't grow them (well, maybe they grew some lettuce....but I'm suspect...especially after seeing the PLU stickers.) No one else seemed to be appalled, they just chatted up the 'farmer' with some useless prattle about how great their farm is doing compared to the 'organic guy' down the way. GMO products, irradiated foods, BHA in canned goods & plastics....we really need a revolution! This takes commitment but I really feel like the wake up call as to what is really happening needs to come from a large, impressive, popular voice in order to really be heard loud & clear. It's just gross. Interestingly enough, other countries refer to our food as "Frankenstein food" and demand that any foods imported from America are created without the preservatives & additives. Their guideline is that nothing that shouldn't be in the food, in order for it to still be called food, is to be in there. Why are we resigned to eat slop in this country or conversely pay premium dollars for something that we believe is healthy? Keep spreading the word! Tell your friends, tell your neighbors, tell your enemies....as long as they're the kind that would love to spread a rumor. Tell that lady who hangs out at the water cooler, somehow manages to keep her job and has all the latest dirt on everyone & everything. Give her something real to work on! Power to the people, Robin

Brynne says …

Since Shanon mentioned it, I looked at your meat policy as well. It makes no mention of the most common tortures that food animals endure: Pigs and calves routinely have their testicles torn out without anesthesia. Cattle are branded, and have their horns sliced off. Pigs and some sheep have tails chopped off. Your policy allows egg-laying hens to have their sensitive beaks cut. (And any other birds who live in quarters unnaturally close enough that they will peck each other.) Your website should boldy list the allowable procedures, and not use insulting euphemisms like "discomfort."

Kimberly Pontius says …

After watching the film King Corn and reading the book Omnivore's Dilemma I have become very interested in this subject. I shall look for the movie in a local theater and I thank Whole Foods for bring this to my attention. I still wish we could get a Whole Foods in Traverse City, Michigan!

Elizah Leigh says …

Over at a green social network I belong to (www.greenwala.com), this is a really hot topic. One of my fellow greenies just posted an article urging everyone to check out Food, Inc: http://tinyurl.com/nbjmrs I am definitely one of the first people in line to see this flick because in my opinion, big corporate food companies and agri-giants have done nothing to benefit our health and ecosystem -- in fact, they have done the complete opposite. Monsanto is one of the worst offenders -- their perpetual quest for profits has seemingly rendered them devoid of a conscience toward man, creature and mother earth. If anyone here wants an eye-opening perspective of what they have done, then please check out this series of video clips: http://www.greenwala.com/community/videos?q=monsanto

shelle says …

Do you really offer an alternative? I have stopped shopping at whole foods except for the products not available elsewhere since the merger. I feel the prices went up, selection went down and the bulk bins are slim. I think in the short term industrial organic is better but it does not address the serious problem of shipping our foods around the world. I, also, thought whole foods still sourced their chickens and eggs from CAFO's. I realize in the peak of production in my area whole foods offers a good selection from local farms, I have decided to buy direct when and where I can. I agree with Mim it is time to raise the bar and get back to the origins of the health food store. I want the collective buying power to mean something and make a difference!

Andrea says …

I was fortunate to have seen this film and a follow-up panel discussion among the filmmaker, film participants and subject experts. I mention this because the film details many disturbing facts, but rather than leave me feeling totally distressed, I heard the panel express their optimisim for the future. At the end of the film there are suggestions on screen about actions to take, but I do feel it is a challenge to get many people to take the necessary steps. Even when shopping at WFs I continue to see most shoppers taking their purchases in store supplied paper bags. If bringing a few re-usable bags to the store is not a common practice, how do you motivate a sizeable number of people to pay more or do without products that are abusive in some manner?

paig292 says …

@Eric Milano You are correct that there is currently no clear regulatory definition of the term “free range.” We expect suppliers who use this claim to use a reasonable definition of this term and we expect this claim to be truthful. The USDA does have guidelines for products labeled as “grass fed, ” which you can read at: http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/ams.fetchTemplateData.do?template=TemplateN&navID=GrassFedMarketingClaimStandards&rightNav1=GrassFedMarketingClaimStandards&topNav=&leftNav=GradingCertificationandVerfication&page=GrassFedMarketingClaims&resultType=&acct=lsstd

paig292 says …

@ Phyllis F, @amy There seems to be some misinformation circulating about Silk’s product offerings and sourcing policies. Silk is committed to not using genetically engineered soybeans in their products. In 2008, Silk developed a Soybean Sourcing Production Program in partnership with Conservation International to reinforce their commitment to sourcing soybeans that are produced in a sustainable, socially responsible and ethical manner. To learn more about this program, please visit http://www.silksoymilk.com/SourcingProgram.aspx

Louise Ross says …

I LOVE to read information like this -- about Whole Foods sourcing policies. Such transparency is the very reason I trust WFs implicitly. Having grown up in rural Australia where we sourced our food locally, i.e. from our beef farm, our neighbor's farm and from our own garden (and the local bakery & ice-cream parlor :), I was horrified by the quality of supermarket food when I came to Boulder CO almost 22 years ago. Then Whole Foods came to town. I hadn't seen a market like it since my days working as a chef in Melbourne, Australia, and then living and chef'ing in London and France. Because of my commitment to, and love of, cooking with and consuming whole foods, I'm a huge fan of Whole Foods Market, hence my dedication as WFs official, Unofficial recession-strategy blogger -- it's my mission to teach people how to eat well for less shopping at WFs.

Mike E. Perez says …

This is the kind of film and information I'd love to get out to the people of the poorer areas of the country. I live in Dallas now, and try to eat healthy home-cooked meals, but when I lived in my hometown of Harlingen, Texas, the situation was bleak. At 29, I'm definitely more fit than I was at 19. The area is poverty stricken, and both diabetes and cancer (thanks to genetics and environment) are huge problems. Yet, the region doesn't have a single high-profile organic grocer. There are no Whole Foods markets, there isn't even an HEB Central Market (and HEB is the top grocer all over Deep South Texas). There isn't even an independent theater to show a limited released film like "Food, Inc." Yet there are dozens of McDonalds and other burger joints -- not to mention pizza places, fried chicken, and Mexican food restaurants. The area is poor and relatively uneducated compared to the rest of the country, and the people are suffering. It's great that Whole Foods and films like "Food, Inc." are doing their part to bring the benefits of healthy eating to America, but what good is doing for those at the highest risk?

Sandra D says …

Whole Foods is nothing but a joke. It is overpriced processed crap food. Who cares if it is 'organic'...corn syrup is still corn syrup, crap nutrition. The labeling on Whole Foods branded products is inaccurate -- why can't you label what sources your dextrin, dextrose, food starch is from? Some of us have VERY REAL corn allergies, as serious as those suffering from celiac disease, and at this point I can't shop at Whole Foods because of this lack of labeling (IOW I have to assume it is corn derived). Trader Joe's does a MUCH better job of labeling what source these types of additives are from, and they choose more allergy-friendly sources (such a tapioca). And let's not even begin with food prices. WF affordable? HAHAHA. WF sells Traders Point Creamery products here in Indianapolis (100% grass fed AND FINISHED oraganic dairy based in Indy) for $2 more than the 'local' conventional grocery store, which is located less than a quarter mile away. It's a croc. I blame Monsanto, DuPont, Cargill for my corn and soy allergies. These have developed in the last 10 years, corresponding to the introduction of GMO's. I am so frustrated by the US government, how it is in cahoots with the chemical companies...the food companies are in on it...and WF ain't any better. Feeding cows 'organic' corn and soy does not address the fact that cows cannot digest it! Therefore selling any meat other than 100% grass fed AND FINISHED is not any healthier!!!!! Shame on you WF!!!!!

Jarrod Robinson says …

This movie is Awesome. This is a must see for all!!! I think parents and kids themselves should have to watch this movie. I think kids in about 5th or 6th grade should be shown this film. I think kids today dont even realize where food comes from it just shows up at the store. To be honest I question how many adults know where there food comes from. What I really enjoyed about this movie was that it was not a preachy, one sided, Michael Moore type documentary. It was informative and eye opening. It incites the opportunity for people to just start to question. Start thinking about what we eat, what we feed our kids and the concequences of "fast" "easy" "cheap" food. This movie is a must see!!! I had already begun to question the my diet but this movie really changed where I shop and what I eat. We, as a community and a country, must start to demand a better quality of food. Not just fast and cheap but actually start to think what is better for our bodies, environment and future. SEE THIS MOVIE!!! AND SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL ORGANIC GROWERS!!!

John says …

Rachael, Regarding biotech seeds and the violation of grower agreements, your use of “seemingly innocuous” is telling. Mo Parr was not sued for saving seeds, as you suggest. He was sued because he was ‘cleaning’ patented seeds for some of his customers, which is against the law. The facts of the court case can be found here: (http://www.monsanto.com/monsanto_today/for_the_record/maurice_parr.asp). Your statement that “farmers are held liable if cross-pollination occurs and patented seed or plants are found in the farmer’s possession” is untrue. Monsanto does not pursue farmers for the accidental presence of our patented technology in their fields or crop. We have no motivation to do so and we surely would not prevail in the courts if we did. For those who are interested, Monsanto’s position on seed patent infringement is here: http://www.monsanto.com/seedpatentprotection/monsantos_position.asp Food, Inc. contains many more inaccuracies regarding Monsanto beyond the two that made it into your post. Your readers who are interested in the facts can find them here: http://www.monsanto.com/foodinc/.

AmandaonMaui says …

@Sandra D. It is my understanding, as a gluten-free eater, that the food manufacturer must list "Wheat" after things like "food starch" if it is sourced from wheat. It is a government mandated thing, not a Whole Foods thing.

ActivistMotivator says …

We have a lot more detailed info on this issue on our social network website. This is an issue that affects all of us and we need more grass roots support.

jack szanto says …

If an item contains GMOs,and I'm aware of it, I'll avoid it. I'd like the Whole Foods delis to have organiclly grown ingredients available. Although I work near the Bowery store, I walk all the way to LifeThyme on 6th ave and 9th street to obtain organically grown foods from their deli bar. It' important.

fred schwartz says …

You are doing a good public service. My long term gripe is that certain corp powers have taken away our freedom, our right to know. GMO's, irradiated foods and hormones in dairy products do not require labeling. Thanks

Susan Hurta says …

This is why I have been a Whole Foods shopper for almost 30 years!!!! My husband and I once got stuck behind a Tyson chicken truck on a one lane crooked road in Arkansas.....What I saw in the truck made me vow never to buy Tyson chicken in my life! Thank you Whole Foods....I am confident my family will have healthier, longer lives due to your existence!

paig292 says …

@ Mim The USDA Organic Standards are scale-neutral and are applied equally to all organic producers regardless of size. We feel that regardless of size, organic is always a better choice for the environment, and is one way to avoid genetically engineered ingredients. We feel strongly about working with local producers in our communities. We choose local and regionally grown and produced products whenever possible. Purchasing locally produced products contributes to the success of local growers and food producers and the local economy. In addition to our focus on buying locally, we have budgeted $10 million for our Local Producer Loan Program http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/products/locallygrown/index.html, which gives low interest loans to local producers. That said, due to seasonal and regional variables, we are unable to rely solely on small, local producers to fill our shelves. However, if you prefer to buy locally grown or produced products, ask a team member to tell you about some of the local products and producers featured at your local store the next time you shop. By closely managing the seed, source, and processing of ingredients in our products, Whole Foods Market works diligently to avoid genetically engineered ingredients in our store brand products. Many of the raw ingredients for our products are sourced on the commodity market and may come from different sources depending on the time of manufacture. For that reason we are unable to answer specific questions about where the corn in our 365 Organic corn tortillas and white corn tortilla chips is grown. However, shopping for certified organic products provides an additional layer of assurance to those shoppers who wish to avoid GMOs. As mandated in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Organic Standards, products labeled as organic cannot be grown from genetically engineered seed or made with genetically engineered ingredients. Compliance with this policy is overseen by a USDA accredited organic certifier. We are deeply committed to raising awareness of the issue around GMOs in our food supply. Keep an eye on our blog for updates about the work we’re doing.

Chicago Jim says …

Rachael at Whole Foods: I'm a big proponent of Factchecker.org which debunks both democratic and republican propoganda. I'm a bit of a nuisance in that I like to get to the truth. Much of your piece was dedicated to the part of film that characterized the seed cleaner as being wronged by Monsanto. It looks like a Monsanto guy is calling that nonsense. Can you please respond directly to his challenge and the specific facts that he's raised. Thanks

paig292 says …

While there is sure to be much debate about the information provided in Food, Inc. we’ll leave it to the movie’s producers and Monsanto to continue that discussion. We certainly aren’t the experts on everything said in the film, but we’ll be glad to provide answers to questions raised about the food that we sell in our stores.

paig292 says …

@Alan Fulte There are many ways to shop on a budget at Whole Foods Market. Buying fresh produce when it is in season, shopping our 365 Organic packaged products, buying family packs in our meat and seafood departments, and filling out meals with whole grains and beans, are just a few of the ways our customers have told us they save money at our stores. It is true that high fructose corn syrup and refined unbleached flour are ingredients that are acceptable in products at Whole Foods Market. However we have a number of alternatives to those ingredients in products at our stores and our 365 Everyday Value and 365 Organic products are formulated without high fructose corn syrup. You don’t have to break the bank to eat well at Whole Foods Market.

paig292 says …

@shelle The merger of Wild Oats and Whole Foods Market has created the advantage of increased buying power, allowing us to offer lower prices to our customers in all or our stores. To give you a specific example, when our merger happened in 2007, our Rocky Mountain region was able to lower prices on 80 percent of their inventory as a result of the merger. We understand that many of our shoppers seek eggs and meat from chickens raised under more clearly defined conditions, and we encourage those shoppers to choose organic eggs. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Standards, all organic livestock are required to have access to the outdoors, shade, shelter, exercise areas, fresh air, and direct sunlight suitable to the species, the climate, and the environment. All organic producers are certified by a USDA-accredited certifying agent.

paig292 says …

@Mike E. Perez We understand that problems like obesity don’t discriminate, which is why we align ourselves with community organizations that reach well beyond the immediate communities where we have stores. For example, we work with Marathon Kids , a free program that teaches kids in grades K-5 daily exercise and good nutrition.

paig292 says …

@jack szanto The difficulty in providing Certified Organic Prepared Foods lies in the level of oversight required by the USDA for organic food processing. The level of oversight required is so great that it would be incredibly difficult to achieve in a retail setting. Some ingredients in our prepared foods are organic, but the USDA standards require processor certification to call the finished product “organic.”

Mary Broussard says …

Amen!!!! I've been looking into GMO's for about the last 6 months and needless to say, my grocery bill has gone WAY down because I refuse to buy the garbage that is marketed toward me, a mom of a large family. I'd rather pay more and know the food I eat is from a wholesome source. I'm in my 40's and run marathons & take the best care of my family that I can. That starts with nutrition. I always preach to them about the unknown culprits in our food supplies. This is serious.

Sean OBrien says …

More people will die from McDonald's french fries than will be harmed by all GMO foods added together over the next 2000 years. People eat the most disgusting, toxic, unhealthy foods and nobody cares. But use the word "genetically modified" and suddenly it's an emergency. Let's get a grip on reality here people.

Will Forne says …

Wow! Mary Ellen's posts were so long, I completely lost interest in reading them. One person said it perfectly: So many people are eating garbage already, and we freak out when someone says "genetically engineered". Whole Foods does what they can, just like other alternative stores. If you took a microscope to every alternative food store, you're going to find something you disagree with. Maybe their banana boxes were made by children in the Philippines, perhaps they clean their floors with chemicals that were tested on animals, or maybe they buy in such bulk that it puts an exporter out of a job. The point is, WF and other like-minded stores are doing "something". Yes, there are still problems and you will never please everyone. Perhaps turning the microscope of scrutiny on ourselves is where the solutions will begin. Do you know where every thing you purchase is made? How it is made? Who makes it? What conditions? Blood Diamond was a good movie too.

Mary Ellen says …

I do all of my shopping at WF. I have been on a journey to health for over 10 years. Food politics has become a passion for me. This has led me to buy ONLY certified organic food (and, none from China, certified or not). I would LOVE to buy more local food, including meats, but, if choosing between locally grown food full of toxins or imported food that is organic, then I choose organic. As soon as a local farmer offers me what I'm seeking... non-toxic food... then I buy local. You used the phrase "we champion organic products"... while this is true with processed foods you offer, you seem to only "champion" so-called "natural" offerings when it comes to meat. Your meat case is full of "natural" meat but it's really hard to find anything organic anymore. Your organic offerings have dwindled while your processed offerings have increased. Frozen, breaded chicken nuggets have crowded out organic ground turkey in the freezer section. Not really "whole food" if you ask me. What bothers me the most is that you are pushing this "natural" meat. Anyone who knows anything about the difference between organic and natural knows that "natural" is a self-defined term that is almost meaningless. I believe WF has misled many people by pushing these meats as "natural" because they are SUPPOSEDLY hormone and anti-biotic free, but you've completely ignored the fact that ALMOST ALL meat is grain fed, and ALMOST ALL grain is GMO. There's no way in hell a farmer is going to feed their animals organic soy or organic corn 100% of the time, NOT shoot them up with hormones OR antibiotics EVER, and then not certify them and make the money selling them as organic. The whole point of paying to certify organic is so that a 3rd party can verify that the farmer is buying organic grain, etc. Without that verification, there is absolutely no incentive for anyone to pay more for organic feed 100% of the time if they are not selling their product as organic. And, since the latest numbers are about 92% of all soy in the USA is GMO and corn is close to that, I wouldn't believe anyone who claims to be using "conventional, non-GMO grain". Think about it. If 92% is GMO, that leaves 8% that's either "organic" or "conventional, non-GMO". For the sake of argument, let's assume it's 50/50. The 4% that's organic is certified. So, that would leave ONLY 4% of all grain as conventional, non-GMO... BUT, nobody has to certify it. Farmer affidavits are no substitute for 3rd party certifiers who check feed invoices. Instead of educating your consumers in a forthright way, you promote this so-called "natural" meat in a way that guides unsuspecting consumers in that direction. First, I truly believe that the PRIMARY reason your organic selections have not done as well is NOT because of higher cost, but because the marketing is horrible. As a very knowledgeable consumer who buys only organic, I have to search carefully to find anything. There should be big, bold, huge, shelf talkers saying ORGANIC! and having ALL organic meat offerings grouped together since you carry so few things. Also, there should be CLEAR information about the TRUE difference between your self-defined "natural" and the organic standards. I saw exactly the opposite recently. There was a laminated shelf talker written by some team leader that was several paragraphs long. It described your "natural" meat in terms that made it sound almost pure and practically divine, while the subsequent description of organic was so vague and convoluted I didn't really understand it! I was furious! If this comment sounds scathing, please understand that I have taken the time to write it because I spend ALL of my grocery money at Whole Foods and I want to see the standards RAISED, not lowered. I commend you for all of the good practices you have employed, but I also see how your growth as a corporation seems to have made it more difficult to adhere to the concept of "WHOLE" foods. I love that WF provides foods that I cannot find anywhere else. But, I am fearful because I see a trend toward crowding out "real" food and focusing on providing the under-educated (about food) with a lot of processed, convenience foods. I am told by your employees "they sell better" or "it's what people want". The same employees always follow up with the corporate sound bites from their training sessions about how high your standards are, your "commitment", etc... but I'm seeing a real "corporate" attitude toward your offerings where the "bottom line" is more important than anything else. I beg you to stick to your original concept of "whole food" and educate those who walk through your doors. For everyone who reads this post: I finished reading the book "Seeds of Deception" by Jeffrey Smith about 8 months ago. It is the most popular book about GMO's worldwide. I usually skim these types of books. I read this one cover to cover and was saying "oh, my GOD!" through the last chapter. Since then, I tell anyone who will listen, if you could only read one more book for the rest of your life, this HAS to be the book if there's any hope of stopping Monsanto from making 100% of the world's seeds GMO. That's been their goal since the mid 90's and they are almost there! For about $18 you can get the "GMO Trilogy" at Amazon.com. It includes the aforementioned book along with a couple of DVD's. I guarantee it will change your outlook forever. The well-documented book explains all of the facts in the first chapter, but I encourage you to read it all to understand just how the American public has intentionally been kept in the dark about GMO's. You'll hear accounts on the DVD's from midwestern farmers in the 1990's who, by word of mouth, figured out why their pigs either couldn't get pregnant or were giving birth to sacs of water (ugh!)... because they were all eating GMO grain. I have no connection to this product other than wanting to see consumers stand up against the most massive genetic experiment ever conducted. For the cost of a pizza, buy the trilogy and change the world. It might sound corny, but consumer awareness was all it took to get GMO's banned in Europe! Also, I just read the post about Silk soymilk. Rachel, I beg to differ with you when you state that there is "misinformation" going around about Silk. You then quote the company website as if their statements make it "fact". One of the country's top organic "watchdog" nonprofit organizations, The Cornucopia Institute, just published a 54 page report about soy within the past month. I personally don't believe in consuming massive amounts of unfermented soy, but, for anyone who does, this is a MUST read. Go to www.cornucopia.org to download the report. Just make sure you're sitting down when you read it. Thank God for organizations like Cornucopia, the Organic Consumers Union and others who are trying to keep our organics "organic"! Thank you, Mary Ellen Azzi Chicago, IL

hannah says …

Not to mention, Whole foods is one of the only places I can find tasty meat-alternatives when I go visit my parents in the midwest. We never had baked tofu or tempeh until we got a Whole Foods!

Dinitia says …

The film was quite good. I t provided information that a wide audience could take in. It has inspired me to help get better quality food(at cheaper prices) into more neighborhoods. I am seeking a grant to teach diabetics how to prepare foods that are satisfying and nutrtionally correct. I shall certainly use the infoin the film to help them be more informed shoppers.

paig292 says …

@Shanon Our meat producers are required to complete annual third party audits of their slaughter facilities that monitor animal welfare according to a rating system developed by world renowned animal welfare and facility design expert, Dr. Temple Grandin. These audits also include an assessment of food safety and strict compliance with the Food and Drug Administration's Good Manufacturing Practices within the plant. If you would like to learn more about Dr. Grandin, please visit: http://www.grandin.com/ At this time we only sell kosher poultry. Our slaughter standards require that all animals be stunned before slaughter. The only exception we have made to this standard at this time is for the ritual slaughter of chicken and turkey. As our product inventory varies from store to store, I would encourage you to check with your local store to inquire as to whether kosher poultry is available, or may be special ordered for you. Our standards prohibit tail docking pigs. We do not have specific requirements about feed, other than to prohibit animal by-products. We do require that cattle are on pasture or range for a minimum of 2/3 of their life. See my response @Eric Milano for more information, as there is no clear regulatory definition of the term “range raised.” We do allow High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) in products sold at Whole Foods Market. We think you’ll find that products with HFCS are more the exception than the norm as in conventional supermarkets, and you won’t find HFCS in our 365 and 365 Organic products. Hydrogenated oils are not acceptable at Whole Foods Market. We are also concerned about GMOs in the food supply and hope you’ll keep an eye on our blog for future updates on what we are doing to address this issue.

paig292 says …

@Brynne We appreciate your comments and concern. We are piloting some innovative new programs that will make it easier for customers concerned with the treatment of farm animals to know what they are buying. We are rolling out this program region by region over the next two years, and we hope you’ll stay tuned for future updates.

paig292 says …

@Helena It is no secret that Whole Foods Market is a business. In fact, “Creating wealth through profits and growth,” is one of our Core Values. We wouldn’t be able to stay in business without making a profit. Our company was founded on the belief that businesses can do good in the world, and we have done our best in the foods we offer, with our green mission, our Whole Planet Foundation, and our support of local food growers and businesses, to name a few examples. We strive to offer value choices in our meat departments with family packs and regular meat specials. However, as I’ve mentioned, we have strict quality standards for our meat. We offer meats that are never given antibiotics or added growth hormones, are fed a vegetarian diet, and that are raised with the animal’s welfare in mind. It costs more for producers to raise their animals this way, and we know that it is your choice to determine whether you want to pay for that difference or not. Regarding your questions about product freshness, our suppliers don’t use any artificial preservatives to prolong the shelf life of their products. Milk stays fresh longer because of pasteurization, breads stay fresh because when they are not baked in a local store or bakehouse, they are shipped to our stores frozen and stay frozen until they are put on the shelf. We work hard to procure the freshest possible produce, and to properly store and gently handle produce once it is in our stores. This prevents problems like bruising which can hasten decay. We offer foods that are free of artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, and hydrogenated oils, and we feature products that are organic, local, fresher, and that we hope meet the expectations of our shoppers. We can offer a variety of choices for shoppers, and in the end we know it is up to you to make purchasing decisions based on what is important to you and what works for you and your family.

Mary Ellen says …

To: Everybody 1)Please read the soy report (and dairy report) at www.cornucopia.org 2)If you want to learn the horrible truth about GMO’s, get “The GMO Trilogy” (available from amazon.com). The trilogy includes the book “Seeds of Deception” by Jeff Smith and 2 dvds and a bonus cd for only $18. All of Monsanto's talking points are addressed in the book. Knowledge is power. Consumer awareness is my only hope that my food supply might be saved before it’s too late. Information is being intentionally kept out of the mass media by corporate powers. Look at the pressure from corporations. Hell, this blog about GMO's and Food, Inc. is being monitored by Monsanto (notice the post from Monsanto employee "John" above). Think about it people. If "John" believes all of Monsanto's claims that GMO's are great, then he would have no reason to shop at Whole Foods or be on the WF website "stumbling across this blog". Monsanto must have employees searching all over the internet doing this type of damage control and the film hasn't even been released yet! Dear Rachel, It's really been bothering me that you were so willing to defend a conglomerate like Dean Foods (the owner of Silk soymilk and Horizon Dairy, among others) based on some corporate statements on their website AND off-handedly dismissing the controversey about Silk as "misinformation" (apparently without ever researching the controversey and reading the 54 page report at www.Cornucopia.org). By making such sweeping statements in defense of Dean Foods and dismissing the controversey without exploration of the facts being exposed by consumer advocacy organizations, YOU ACTUALLY BECOME THE PERSON SPREADING MISINFORMATION. Ask yourself why would Dean Foods (Silk/WhiteWave) need to have "developed a Soybean Sourcing Production Program" when all they had to do was continue buying organic soybeans? Why do they refuse to disclose sourcing (which Cornucopia's research leads them to suspect is cheap, conventional soybeans from China for most of their products)? When they switched most of their soymilk to "natural" (i.e. conventional soy grown with pesticides whether it's GMO or not) did they drastically drop the price to reflect the savings? No. They quietly changed the wording on the regular packaging from "organic" to "natural". They split their "organic" offering into a separate product and raised the price. According to Cornucopia's soy report, "the CEOs of early pioneering companies that were bought by large, publicly traded corporations, such as Silk® (now part of Dean Foods) and Westsoy® (now part of the Hain Celestial Group), refused to share any information for the Organic Soy Scorecard." However, other companies were completely transparent. Common sense tells us that those with nothing to hide tend to be cooperative and transparent. EdenSoy sources 100% from U.S. and Canadian organic farms AND tests every batch of soybeans. There are other smaller companies providing similar quality. Organic Valley also sources 100% from organic U.S. farms but does not have a testing procedure in place. Read the whole report at www.cornucopia.org Whole Foods has strict standards in some areas (like no artificial sweeteners). But, in other areas, if a standard goes against some of their top selling products, it's easier to hide behind a corporate statement than to "lead the charge" in changing the marketplace. How can Whole Foods claim to be anti-GMO when it allows a company like Dean Foods (Silk) to hide behind a blurb on its website, while Dean and Hain (WestSoy) REFUSE sourcing transparency???? I would bet that if WF put its corporate buying power into demanding transparency from Dean and Hain, you would get it. But, then again, WF is refusing sourcing transparency about its corn chips because you say you’re buying on the commodities market instead of establishing buying relationships with U.S. farmers where you can have even more oversight. I’m not well versed on the Country of Origin (COO) law. Your 365 organic corn chips say “product of USA”… does that mean ALL ingredients AND production???? I’m nervous about this because I just ate this product last weekend for the first time in a long time. There was only one other product (organic kefir) I consumed last weekend that is not part of my regular diet. Several hours after ingesting each, I got a headache. I didn’t think anything of it. (And, no, it wasn’t a“cleansing” effect from the probiotics in the kefir since I take probiotics every day). The next day, I had more of the corn chips and kefir and a few hours later got a migraine headache that lasted over 24 hours. I truly hope you are not buying “organic” corn from China and being allowed to label this as “product of USA” just because the other ingredients and production are from this country. I don’t want cheap Chinese goods in my food. I appreciated WF splitting up their frozen veggie production… continuing Chinese sourcing for lower priced 365 organics while offering your Columbia River line of all USA organic produce. I’m all for free choice… if other people are comfortable buying goods from China then more power to them, but I have seen and read enough to believe that anything that comes from that country is tainted… there is little USDA oversight of organic certifiers, the few that were checked were in violation, and the country’s air and water pollution are so bad that even “organic” crops are being irrigated with toxic sludge, so please give me organic products that are NOT from China!

Reina says …

I spent an evening reading through the blog and applaud WF for allowing honest and direct challenges. I have made a choice in the last few months to eat as naturally and organically as I can. Like so many other Americans in 2007 and 2008 I spent 26 months out of work. I can work part time, I recieve SSDI and I am very proactive about rebuilding and sustaining my health. I buy the basic fresh oranges, apples, strawberries and some frozen organic veggies. My PT income went down 50%. A few of these last months I have needed Food Stamps. I try to shop smarter and have cut my intake by 30%. I am in the process of losing weight and have looked into the viability of being able to buy exclusivly from WF or Trader Joes. I appreciate learning about your economic program. Personally I don't consume soy products as I was informed by my doctor that it inhibits absorbtion of thyroid medication. I too have given up HFCS and white flour products, but I seem to be sensitive to all these other factors listed in the blogs. I am of a generation where I was a premie and an alcohol fetal syndrome baby and obesity seems to fall into that syndrome. I am not ready to go vegan, but I have reduced my meat intake substantially. I am learning and being more selective, but I need to be able to afford it. I don't smoke or drink, so I have no other disposable income to convert to natural and organics higher costs. The opening of this blog stated that you offer sale items and can sustain a family on a budget. This, I would like to see. I need to know that the eggs you sell don't have genetically altered corn fed to the chickens or any other products. I have seen many products in your store recommended by Dr. Oz and many other health guru's. Do you have experts in your stores or only well trained employees who recite back company policy? I am anxious to learn, change and seek health I have never known before. Eating well seems the foundation to a better life for me. I am open to any suggestions.

Laurie says …

I am glad this is all coming to light. Maybe 2 years ago, I heard a story on NPR about Monsanto's Round-Up Ready seeds. Round-Up Ready seeds are genetically modified to live through being sprayed with Round-Up weed and bug killer. Sounds smart at first. But, as the story explained, now we have stronger weeds, stronger bugs and stronger diseases. On top of that, we are feeding the Round-Up to our livestock, and then giving them antibiotics to counteract the dietary problems we are creating. The upshot is, we are feeding ourselves and our children poison(weed and bug-killer), antibiotics and hormones. So, we have MRSA, e. Coli in vegetables, girls hitting puberty before 10. You don't actually have to care about animal rights or mother nature to be concerned. We are killing OURSELVES! We should be smarter than this.

Jamie says …

I saw this movie today. It is a powerful commentary about what we put in our bodies. I've never felt better, or been healthier than when I switching to buying all organic, natural foods. I refuse to compromise my own health at the cost of making multi-national corporations richer and more powerful. I think everyone ought to see this movie. I'm so thankful that someone is finally bringing these issues to light. Now, if only we could solve making veggies as inexpensive as McDonald's burgers, we will have REAL change on our hands. I'm optimistic!

Helena says …

So, after seeing a movie and reading Rachel's post and some of the other shorter posts in their entirety, I have come to a conclusion that Organic Food industry is still a FOOD INDUSTRY, and is still there making money. WF is not affordable - at least not for me. I can afford to buy $19.99 per pound veal or $6.99 per pound chicken. The price level is not sustainable at all. At least for me, a woman with 2 children and a husband to feed. Organic for me is something that should be natural. I don't understand why organic milk has a shelf life of 3 months and does not go sour. What goes into that packaging? Antibiotics that don't go into milk? Why the bread does not go stale in 3 days and why it remains soft? Why does $19.99 per pound veal sits on the shelf in the store and does not go bad? and when is it when it stops being fresh? How come organic produce have sometimes a longer shelf life than regular? WF is in business to make money. I know for sure that Tyson Chicken did not pay for the production of that movie, but did organic producers? Food Inc - explains how food has become and industry, a business and a money making machine. And to me, WF is no better. WF is in the same business, milking money from consumers.

Paul says …

I heard that often produce from local vendors is required to be shipped to the nearest hub. For us, Austin, then it comes to our store, Boulder. Is this true?

says …

@Paul We define local as food that has traveled less than 7 hours between vendor/farm and store. Yes, we do have a distribution hub in Denver, but we would not say, ship produce from Austin to that hub and call it "local" in Boulder. For our local vendors, products may either go directly to the store or through one of our regional distribution centers.

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