Rachael is part of our team dedicated to answering emails, letters and phone calls from our customers.
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.