Hole Foods, Part 2: 13 Bones To Pick


I figure it’s time I write about Whole Foods Market again–you know, that yuppie-topia that, despite the fact that it says all the right words and uses all the right colors, you still can’t help but to suspect that they’re not telling you the Whole Story (TM).  This is because your instincts are correct: the truth is obscured by the trying-too-hard facade.

Last time, I wrote about all-natural packaged snack products with ingredients that, despite their innocuous-sounding names (like “autolyzed yeast” or “yeast extract”), they’re actually just aliases for MSG-like compounds that walk like a duck and talk like a duck.  Sure, they’re Organic and GMO-free, but they’ll still flare up your autoimmune disorder or your migraines.

I’ve got a few more bones to pick.  These bones may be smaller (you decide) but they’re bones just the same.

Bone 1: Still other toxic ingredients…fluoride in toothpaste, propylene glycol in their body wash, and aluminum compounds in their “mineral salt” deodorant.

Bone 2: I’m not gaga over the whole Buying Local campaign, but there’s a limit.  While it’s OK with me that food comes from other places (some would argue otherwise, due to the burden that fuel consumption to transport these items undoubtedly puts on the environment), it’s not OK that these foods come from places like Mexico where DDT (a horrible toxin banned here in the ’70s) is still legal–and used–there.

Bone 3: There has been a disturbing retreat in the selection of fresh herbs, in favor of pre-packaged herbs that are not nearly as fresh and not nearly as affordable.

Bone 4: Product selections are quite inconsistent – several years ago there was a period of time where it was nearly impossible to get their store-brand whole wheat pasta.  The problem was always blamed on the “suppliers”.

In recent years, little has changed.  My favorite chili powder is still constantly out of stock, to the point where I’ve given up.  Sundays are quickly becoming known as annoying days to go shopping because they seem to be out of everything.

Bone 5: Can someone please order some of those nifty green twist ties for the bags in the produce section?  It doesn’t foster positive PR or convey good customer service when their bags of apples open and fall all over the conveyor belt at checkout.  This is not unique to one location; both of our area locations suffer this problem…chronically.

Bone 6: Whole Foods likes to preach “green” and “sustainable”, and give the impression that they are helping the environment.  For a while, they were not providing plastic bags anywhere, not even the meat stations (that failed…bloody miserably).

However, they never did stop carrying disposable diapers and maxi pads.  While it’s great that these products are “fragrance-free” and “chlorine-free”, their ultimate fate is identical to their conventional counterparts: a landfill.  If Whole Foods was really about the Whole Planet (TM), they’d offer cloth diapers and cloth pads, both of which exist, and have for longer than their disposable cousins.

Bone 7: Do we really need clothing at Whole Foods?  While it’s great that they’ll donate a dollar to an impoverished community for every pair of bamboo shoes they sell, those clothes take up shelf space.  Shelf space that once held something else, like foods or herbs, the kind of thing that Whole Foods built their success on and people have come to depend on Whole Foods for.  I’d rather have my bulk spices back; screw the scarves from Cambodia.  I go to Whole Foods for groceries and medicinal herbs; I don’t go there to pamper my Whole Body (TM).

Bone 8: It’s obvious that Whole Foods has noticed there’s a huge turning tide toward hypoallergenic foods (examples include gluten-free, dairy-free, etc).  This is usually not by choice; people must seek out these alternative options because they’ve been diagnosed with an intolerance to a food.  It would thus be an intelligent (and risk-management-savvy) move on Whole Foods’ part to start washing out the bulk product bins in between products (they currently don’t do this, so last week’s high-gluten wheat-flour bin now holds oatmeal, but with all the gluten residue you can imagine).

This means that those with food allergies are facing a discrimination of sorts, because they can’t shop in the cheaper bulk section; their only safe option is the certified gluten-free oats from the certified gluten-free factory…which of course, costs a lot more.

Bone 9: They might also start catering to this population by making gluten-free pre-made cakes in their bakery.  Seriously, I went shopping for a gluten-free cake last year; didn’t find-a-one.  They do make cakes for special diets; they’ve catered to the semi-suicidal vegan diet for years by carrying vegan cakes, and vegans make up 1% of the population, whereas the gluten intolerant crowd is sitting at anywhere from 15-30% (most of which are unknown, which means this population segment is going to mushroom in the coming years).

Bone 10: It would be nice to find a BBQ sauce, steak marinade, or salad dressing without soy.  Soy is actually a legume, in other words, a bean.  Beans do not need to be in these items and as a Texan, I dare say they don’t belong in them.

Bone 11: I would like to have items like coconut yogurt and kale chips in sizes bigger than tiny single-serving packages.  I do not have the appetite of a toddler.  Not only is it utterly wasteful packaging, but it’s incredibly expensive.  Those wonderful kale chips?  I can plow through a tiny bag in 5 minutes.  Cost: $6.  That’s a pretty expensive snack.

Bone 12: Why, oh why, does Whole Foods still use plastic?  A quick refresher: plastic is a non-biodegradable petroleum product – yep, earth-unfriendliness and Big Evil Oil all rolled into one.  There are plenty of other container materials out there, most of them much easier on the environment, and indeed the body.  Plastic from containers leaches into heated food.  While I love that Whole Foods carries warm, organic raw honey, I often wonder how much of the plastic container I’ll be consuming when I put some in my tea.

Bone 13: Last but not least, I’m not sure CDs of mainstream acts like Eagles and the Beatles belong anywhere in a store that prides itself on living outside of that mainstream.  I’m all for Putumayo collections, indie band releases, and musical tributes to various causes, but as much as I like Smashing Pumpkins or Johnny Cash, they just don’t fit in at the cash register.

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