Contributing Monkie G Living Staff Monkies
Published on October 20, 2007
Whole Foods does not appreciate being called “The Wal-Mart of Organics”. Nor does it appreciate what the grocery giant’s founder and CEO John Mackey referred to as “open season on Whole Foods”,which began with the publication of Michael Pollan’s bestselling agricultural exposé The Omnivore’s Dilemma. In the book, Pollan criticized the market chain and lumped its products into categories he labeled “Industrialized Organic” and “Big Organic” – those produced haphazardly by large institutions that he says are unconcerned with animal welfare and ecological sustainability.
Mackey responded with an open letter to Pollan, in which he stated that “credible information about the sources of our food…is limited to non-existent”.
From the letter:
“I regret that you did not engage in any serious research about how Whole Foods Market actually does business or you would have discovered that we support local and small farm food production all over the United States as well as in other parts of the world.”
The CEO went on to say that “Whole Foods Market has done more to advance the natural and organic foods movement in general and local organic growers and artisanal food producers specifically than any other business currently operating in North America,” a point, he added, that Pollan neglected to mention in his book. A heated (and well-publicized) e-mail exchange between the two followed, culminating in February of this year, when Mackey and Pollan got together in front of a packed audience in a UC Berkeley auditorium to debate their issues and answer questions.
As part of his presentation, Mackey revealed his corporation’s new local and animal-friendly initiatives, which includes a proposed increase in the amount of local grocer’s produce and a new still-in-development rating system for animal welfare. He also stressed that local food “is not necessarily organic, and not necessarily humane” and that food miles (the distance the food travels from the farm to your plate) account for only 10 percent of the fossil fuels used in the overall process of production.
After the debate, a somewhat swayed Pollan expressed his feeling in an e-mail that “Mackey is genuinely interested in pushing Whole Foods to do better,” but doubted whether the corporation would be able to rise to all their own challenges.
G Living will keep you posted. To read more comments from either side, check this out.