(NaturalNews) Whole Foods is in a public relations crisis. After its CEO John Mackey posted a widely-read opinion piece that insisted Americans have no intrinsic right to health care, it was slammed with angry liberal customers who picketed stores and organized a national Whole Foods boycott at a Facebook page now numbering over 26,000 members (http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=119099...
Whole Foods customers are angry at the upscale retailer over the position of its CEO on health care reform, but I can think of a much better reason to avoid shopping at Whole Foods: The store sells a whole lot of junk products
Those aren't my words; they're the words of CEO John Mackey, who admitted this during a discussion about how Whole Foods might improve its product offerings ((http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2009/aug/...
The last time I was in the U.S., I shopped at Whole Foods because it was the best option for convenient health food. But even then, I noticed a whole lot of "junk" being sold by the store: Foods made with yeast extract
(a hidden form of MSG), loads of processed pastries, fried snack chips and all sorts of other products I wouldn't dare let touch my lips. Let's face it: If you walk around Whole Foods and read the ingredients, you'll be more than a little shocked to find out how much unhealthy stuff the store actually offers.
But even this isn't the No. 1 reason to stop shopping at Whole Foods. The real reason is because Whole Foods takes most of the profit
on the products it sells, leaving vendors frustrated and often just barely scraping by. I know this because I have personal behind-the-scenes conversations with the owners of many companies who sell products through Whole Foods, and most of them quietly tell me behind closed doors that they are extremely frustrated with Whole Foods purchasing and payment policies. The markups are often quite ridiculous, requiring a health product manufacturer to cheapen their ingredients and water down their formulas just to be able to get their products into Whole Foods at a retail price (after the W.F. markup) that consumers can tolerate.
Superfoods: Buy direct!
That's why many of the very best superfood products available today aren't available in Whole Foods stores and never will be. Living Fuel, one of my favorite superfood products (www.LivingFuel.com
) will probably never be seen on a Whole Foods shelf. Why? Because the ingredients are premium, and that means premium cost for the raw materials. There simply isn't enough room in the pricing on Living Fuel to squeeze out 50% (or so) for Whole Foods to mark it up.
Boku Superfood is a similar story (www.BokuSuperfood.com
). It's only sold directly to customers through the Boku website. (They may even have a few free samples of Boku newly available at www.FreeBoku.com
if you want to check that out...) Because of the quality and cost of the ingredients in this formula, there's simply no room for an additional 50% markup unless the retail prices are raised to compensate.
In all, if you look at superfood products at Whole Foods, they simply do not represent the best value for your dollar. The Whole Foods overhead adds a lot of cost to the final price, and that money isn't going to the vendor.
Now, you could reasonably argue that Whole Foods is providing a nice shopping environment, with clean produce aisles, and good signage (sometimes), and a great selection. Yes, all those things are true. It costs money for the building, the inventory, the employees and even the parking lot. But for someone only wanting the best value in great nutrition, they don't need all that stuff. They just need an honest, high-quality product at a fair price, without the middle man markup. And you get that from buying direct.
Pure Synergy, for example, (www.TheSynergyCompany.com
) is my No. 1 top recommended food-based multivitamin. I've never seen them in Whole Foods and don't expect to. The Whole Foods markup would make their vitamins seem outrageously expensive. So it's better to just buy them directly from The Synergy Company at a fair price for a super high-quality product.
Dr. Jameth Sheridan's amazing superfood products (www.HealthForce.com
) are also not represented in Whole Foods, at least the last time I was there. His products are just too high-end in nature, and they're priced close to the actual production costs, so there's just not enough room in the profit margins to hand over 50% to Whole Foods (or whatever the actual amount is these days).
So when it comes to vitamins and superfoods, I recommend you avoid Whole Foods
and just buy directly from the manufacturers as much as possible.
Whole Foods produce and the real story on farmers...
The real kicker here is found in Whole Foods produce. Keep in mind that I grow most of my own food in Vilcabamba, Ecuador for next to nothing. Every day I have fresh, organic kale, celery, carrots, cucumbers, raspberries, figs and over 80 different kinds of produce that are growing in my own garden right now at the Hacienda San Joaquin.
The last time I walked into Whole Foods and saw the prices they were asking for organic avocados, carrots and broccoli, I just about dropped my jaw on the floor. Paying $4 for an organic avocado seems like thievery to me, especially when I can pick a basket of fifty off the tree in my back yard in Ecuador for free!
When you look at the pricing for Whole Foods produce, it just makes you shudder. Why is all this stuff so expensive?
Here's the (disturbing) answer: Because a whole lot of it comes from very far away, and it's grown, packaged and distributed by big food
corporations that are far from the idyllic family farm fairy tales often described to us. Sure, Whole Foods stores include local produce from time to time, but if you're going to buy local produce, why not just buy it from the farmer who grew it?
Community Supported Agriculture
This leads me to the subject of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). See this website to learn all about it: http://www.localharvest.org/csa/
CSA allows you, the consumer, to purchase a "share" in a local farm, where your up-front money allows them to buy seeds, plant the produce, harvest it and make it available directly to you. To get involved, you buy a share or a portion of a share (which might cost a few hundred dollars) of a local CSA during the winter months, well before planting begins. Throughout the food production season (which could last 20 weeks or more, depending on your geography), you get a crate of fresh, organic produce that you pick up each week from a local food coop. You don't get to pick and choose what you want each week; you simply get your fair share of whatever's ready for harvest that week (the way nature intended, see?)
What's so brilliant about this system is that it directly supports local farmers
without the ridiculously expensive and bureaucrat process of going through someone like Whole Foods. Because, let's face it: If you really want whole foods
, you don't really need Whole Foods. What you actually need is a share in a local CSA.
So find a local CSA right now: http://www.localharvest.org/csa/
It many regions, all the available shares are already sold out for 2010, so if you're interested in getting a share for next year, jump on it now, well ahead of the coming winter.
Once you're in a CSA and getting fresh produce each week, you can still shop at Whole Foods, of course, but you will rarely need to buy fresh produce at W.F. prices (which might better be described as "W.T.F. prices"). Instead, you can use Whole Foods more sparingly to purchase only those things you simply can't get locally: organic mustard, balsamic vinegar, brown rice, and maybe even those ever-so-tempting yogurt-covered pretzels made with evaporate cane juice.
Farmers and consumers: The great divide
In essence, I'm not really saying you should boycott Whole Foods, only that if you're buying fresh produce from Whole Foods, you're not only over-paying -- you're also financially feeding a big corporate system of food acquisition and distribution that's unnatural and often non-local. Much of the money you pay for that produce doesn't even get into the hands of the farmers who grew your food in the first place. And this is a great disconnect
because it isolates consumers from farmers.
In a happy world, the people who eat food should always know the farmers who grow it
. When consumers get separated from farmers through big, profit-focused corporations like Monsanto, ADM or even Whole Foods, some really nasty things start to happen to the quality of the food as well as the intention behind it. When farmers are selling their food to real people, they care a lot more about its quality. But when they're selling to some big, evil corporation that only pays them a pittance for all their hard work, quality often gets thrown out the window and it's all about maximizing production quantity
at the expense of quality
There are some exceptions to this, I know, but as a general rule the more distant you get from the farmers, the lower the nutritional quality of your food becomes. Processed food products, for example, are nutritionally empty and at the same time no one knows where any of their ingredients really come from or who grew them (or even what they're made of in the first place!).
That's why I strongly support "country of origin" labeling requirements for all produce sold in the U.S. If we knew where the stuff came from, we would have much more information to use in our consumer decision-making processes. In other words: Should I buy the 59-cent apples grown with toxic pesticides in Mexico, or the two-dollar apples grown organically but air-freighted in from Japan?
Boycott Whole Foods?
In conclusion, I'm not actually supporting the current effort to boycott Whole Foods based on the statement of its CEO on health care reform because, in my view, that's a very minor part of the bigger Whole Foods picture. If I were to boycott Whole Foods, it would probably be about its use of yeast extract
or the ridiculous prices on its fresh produce shipped in from Central and South America while burning up fossil fuels during all the trucking miles.
But we don't have to boycott Whole Foods
to get our message across. All we have to really do is change our purchasing behavior
Vote with your dollars, folks. Join a CSA. Visit your local farmers' markets or food co-ops. If you have a little land, grow some portion of your own diet on it (you can't get more local than that!). Buy your eggs from local chicken ranches, get your goat's milk from a local goat ranch, and vary your diet by the season so that you're in tune with the natural food production that Mother Nature has intended for your geographic region.
Do these things and you don't need to spend time boycotting Whole Foods. Just change your actions and bypass Whole Foods
by purchasing directly from farmers and nutritional supplement companies that produce the products you wish to consume.
This is the model for sustainable agriculture in our world: People buying directly from farmers. People getting to know their farmers and learning to respect them. People doing business with People, not corporations.
The more you understand about food, the more you'll come to recognize the daily miracles being pulled off right now by farmers living within one hundred miles of where you live. They are keeping you alive, and now you have an opportunity to help keep them alive and in business by joining a CSA.
Enjoy your food shares. :-)