T Nation

Is 'Whole Foods' Wholesome?


Interesting article...




Interesting article indeed. I like that it pointed out that a great deal of the organic foods come from large agribusiness corportaions. I think the whole 'save energy' thing is quite ironic too. I have read that it takes something on the order of a few hundred times a food's nutrien content (I believe the example used was a strawberry) to ship it from California to New York - which likely means that on balance buying the hot house tomatoes from New Jersey is likely more energy efficient in absolute terms weather or not they were grown organically. Quite a marketing ploy none the less.


(Quotes are from the article.)

""Let's say you live in New York City and want to buy a pound of tomatoes in season. Say you can choose between conventionally grown New Jersey tomatoes or organic ones grown in Chile. Of course, the New Jersey tomatoes will be cheaper. They will also almost certainly be fresher, having traveled a fraction of the distance. But which is the more eco-conscious choice? In terms of energy savings, there's no contest: Just think of the fossil fuels expended getting those organic tomatoes from Chile.""

The first criticism of Whole Foods in the article is based on a hypothetical "what-if?" scenario. That's hardly impressive as a thought-excercise and utter nonsense as a criticism considering that we don't know if such a scenario has ever existed.

""Another heading on the Whole Foods banner says "Help the Small Farmer." "Buying organic," it states, "supports the small, family farmers that make up a large percentage of organic food producers." This is semantic sleight of hand. As one small family farmer in Connecticut told me recently, "Almost all the organic food in this country comes out of California. And five or six big California farms dominate the whole industry." There's a widespread misperception in this country?one that organic growers, no matter how giant, happily encourage?that "organic" means "small family farmer."""

The author insults our intelligence as readers. He cites an anonymous "small farmer in Connecticut" as if this anonymous farmer can be considered as worthy a reference as the US Census Bureau.

I don't know about you but I never had any mis-perception about the size of farms (organic or conventional) in this country.

""There are a lot of small, family-run organic farmers, but their share of the organic crop in this country, and of the produce sold at Whole Foods, is minuscule.""

First of all, where is the data? Why should I beleive what he says when he has not established himself as an authority or cited an credible reference?

""A nearby banner at the Time Warner Center Whole Foods proclaims "Our Commitment to the Local Farmer," but this also doesn't hold up to scrutiny. More likely, the burgeoning local-food movement is making Whole Foods uneasy. After all, a multinational chain can't promote a "buy local" philosophy without being self-defeating.""

This is non-sequitur. What on earth would possibly prevent a multi-national chain (that is locally managed) from purchasing locally produced foods? There is nothing self-defeating about encouraging a "buy local" philosophy. That's just idiotic.

""This winter, when I dropped by the store, the only local produce for sale was a shelf of upstate apples, but the grower profiles were still up. There was a picture of a sandy-haired organic leek farmer named Dave, from Whately, Mass., above a shelf of conventionally grown yellow onions from Oregon.""

First, the only local food in NY state in the winter is going to be apples, that's obvious. Second, who cares if they left the signs of the growers up after the food was sold out? I don't care if there is a picture of a leek-grower above the onions from Mexico because it isn't important. Calling it deceptive is childish. This is an extremely weak criticism.

As far as organic foods being only for the rich. Again, who cares? You vote with your dollars. If eating healthy is important to you then you simply forgo buying that expensive toy that you don't need in favor of buying what is more important.

I am poor as shit. My wife is in grad-school at Georgetown U. and I just graduated college and I make very little money. I still shop almost exclusively at Whole Foods because it's important to me. If that means not buying something else, oh well... I put my money where I consider it to be best spent. So fuck the whiners who say the shit is too expensive. If those whiners would start demanding healthier foods companies wouldn't be trying to sell them shitty foods. If demand increased so would supply and eventually the prices would look more normal, instead of seeming "just for the rich."

This article sucks because the criticisms are so weak that they can't even be considered worth writing. It also pisses me off to see someone looking for any little reason to piss on something that is good. On the other hand, I hope the idiot that wrote this shitty article sticks around in case Whole Foods ever becomes "not good" and they deserve to be blasted. Then he will receive my highest praise.


Anyone who buys organic because it takes less energy is probably way off of their rocker.

Odds are, most Americans who buy organic do it because it is pesticide free and Organic food is generally a healthier choice than it's conventional counterpart.

Hopefully with wal-mart entering the picture, a large national movement towards everyone growing organic will happen... that'd be nice.


This article does suck, for all the reasons beebuddy mentioned.

Though it does make a good point that for earth-friendliness, it's likely better to buy local than organic, if given the choice of only one or the other.

Which is why I do my shopping at the farmer's market, when in-season, before swinging on over to the health food store. Fruits and vegetables can be frozen during harvest, and then consumed in the winter months.

The food co-op here still has last year's local (and organic) blueberries for sale in their freezer. I had some in my oatmeal this morning.

Though, naturally, anti-oxidants are more valuable during the harvest months anyways, when we're bombarded by increased solar radiation. Kind of nice how that works out - one less reason to buy those winter-time California strawberries.


interesting artical, but i think BigPaul has some great points. If I want to "Buy Organic" or "Support the small farmer" i'm going to go to the local Sunday farmers market and take care of both at once. I do however shop at Whole Foods quite a bit because they have a great selection of odd foods that i can't find a Kroger or Martin's foods. I find there quality and quantity to be supurlative, regardless of any other gasto-political issues.



This is my approach as well. I dont generally buy organic, but I do buy from a farmers market. I know that I am still buying pesticides and all the other crap, but the produce is fresher, tastes better, and has travelled less distance to get to me which means that it will last longer in my house.

With these farmers markets I can pretty much guarantee that I am buying from the 'little guy' as well which is important to me as well.


How can you complain about stuff not being locally grown at an NYC store?!? "My strawberries were grown locally in a field in lower Manhattan irrigated- and irradiated- by the Hudson River."

They list the origin of all their produce on the displays, so you do have a choice. I live in CA, so most organic things (and conventional when in season) say CA or locally produced anyway.

They are pricey, especially in meat, but the quality is in most cases superior. As long as you stay away from the deli and prepared foods though things aren't too bad.


hey hey.....dont not love whole foods.
it would ruin my families income


oh good... this was put to rest long ago...ok..sigh of relief


yeah i was looking for "fuck whole foods" bandwagon to jump on, but that article was just absolute shite. but still, fuck wholefoods anyway.


Whole Foods has served one very important function. They have forced vendors of low-quality food (Giant, Safeway, Wal-Mart etc...) to compete with them and start stocking quality foods. That gives us more choices for healthier foods at a cheaper cost. Whole Foods rules for that.


I'm with Swivel. Fuck'em.

They appeal to peoples emotions, then decieve them. I just don't but the granola munching Fortune Fivehundred Company thing either. They buy produce from a country who's treatment of workers and behavior in regard to human rights is deplorable.

There is a family run farm in my area. The head of the family is a nice guy that I have personaly met. When it comes to my produce buying dollar, he gets it hands down. Not because he's a nice guy, but because he has the best stuff anywhere, at the best price.


Fuck Whole Foods and fuck Slate. They are both cut from the same cloth.

Corporate entities that put on a phony progressive face.


Eh, even given a level of general distaste for hypocrisy, I rather prefer them to actual "progressives"...


why did I have to revive this...i couldve just gone quietly
I could argue really well too but
I really dont care enough.


You must be bored.


Has anyone else noticed in the produce department very often the sign will say the product is from one place, but the stickers on the item say somewhere else? Never does it say Julia87's family's farm though. :frowning:


my dad is commercial real estate developer.
he put the 2nd largest whole foods in the nation in one of his centers thats really nice.
More peple there, more dough for my family.


I was in Baltimore a few months ago and Whole Foods has a downtown store in the groundfloor of a highrise condo. I thought that was pretty cool.