Posts Tagged ‘Whole Foods

“Humane” Turkeys Come from Factory Farm

» November 30th, 2015



In preparation for this year’s Thanksgiving feast, more consumers than ever before will seek turkeys that have been humanely raised. For these shoppers, optimistic messages offered by Whole Foods and other animal welfare–oriented food retailers will provide assurance that they’re making an ethical food choice. “Our birds live in harmony with the environment and we allow them plenty of room to roam,” explains a Diestel Turkey Ranch brochure, prominently displayed at many Whole Foods meat counters. Diestel turkeys raised at the Ranch’s main farm earn a 5+ welfare mark—the highest—from the nonprofit Global Animal Partnership, which contracts with third-party certifiers and administers the company’s rating system for humanely raised animal products. Diestel is one of only a handful of Whole Foods meat suppliers out of about 2,100 to achieve this remarkable distinction. So, along with the Diestel’s promise that “on our ranch a turkey can truly be a turkey,” it seems safe to assume that the Diestel turkeys sold at Whole Foods lived a decent life.

But a recent undercover investigation by the animal advocacy group Direct Action Everywhere tells a more complicated story.

Read more here.

Meet Your “Meat” Rabbit

» September 7th, 2014


As you may have heard, Whole Foods is establishing a pilot program to sell rabbit meat. Take a moment and read the company’s welfare standards here and you’ll quickly realize that the rabbits can be produced under conditions very close to industrial circumstances. For example, “Although outdoor access is not required . . . .” And so on.

Interestingly, the welfare regulations outlined in the link above abruptly end when it comes to slaughter methods. Transport is covered: “Transport must not exceed 8 hours.” But nothing about the killing itself. This omission should raise a red flag. Surely, the “harvesting” is regulated, right?

Nope. Rabbit meat falls under state inspection. In Texas you can apply for an inspection exemption. For example, here’s this  from the Texas Department of Health Services: “Anyone that raises poultry or rabbits, and slaughters 10,000 birds or rabbits (or combination thereof) per year or less may opt to apply for a Grant of Poultry Exemption instead of a Grant of Inspection.  These products may be sold on the farm or through locations other than the farm.” Other states allow the same (how many I’ve not yet researched).

Whole Foods in general relies on Temple Grandin’s regulations to ensure the following:

  • Healthy condition of animals upon arrival
  • Calm, efficient unloading procedures
  • Animals handled with patience, skill and respect
  • Clean, well-designed facility ensuring quiet movement of the animals
  • Appropriate flooring to ensure the animals’ stability
  • Stringent stunning efficacy requirements

Again, though, note that there’s nothing on process of slaughter itself. To discover if there were any regulations regarding how rabbits were dispatched, I searched around the extension agency literature. Here’s advice from an undated Texas A&M report:

“The preferred method of slaughtering a rabbit is by dislocating its neck. With the left hand hold the animal by its hind legs. Place the thumb of the right hand on the neck just behind the ears, with the fingers extended under the chin. Push down on the neck with the right hand, stretching the animal. Press down with the thumb. Then with a quick movement, raise the animal’s head and dislocate the neck.”

A recent Mississippi extension agent recommends this:

“The rabbit is held firmly by the rear legs and head; it is stretched full length. Then with a hard, sharp pull, the head is bent backward to dislo- cate the neck. The rabbit can also be struck a hard, quick blow to the skull behind the ears. A blunt stick or side of the hand is commonly used to incapacitate the rabbit. Both methods quickly render the rabbit unconscious.”

To be sure, there are rabbit slaughterers out there who really want the slaughter to be done properly, because if you screw up, you know, the meat won’t taste very good. warns:

“Any stress during the butchering process can result in the release of adrenaline and other endocrine hormones associated with the animal’s flight response. These hormones negatively affect the flavor of the rabbit meat, and will toughen the meat.”

It then instructs you how to kill a rabbit with a broomstick.






John Mackey at The Pitchfork

» August 10th, 2013

Readers might easily miss it, but below is a copy of Mackey’s response to an older post about the heroic hiker Josh Garrett, who just set a new record for hiking the Pacific Trail–doing so as a vegan (and with Mackey’s support). More on Josh’s accomplishment next week.

For now, here’s is Mackey’s comment, one that I hope readers will respond to in a spirit of constructive dialogue.  Readers know that I’m a qualified but very eager supporter of the Whole Foods experience as well as admirer of John Mackey. I know not all share my opinion, but we can all agree that civility is the prerequisite to insight.

From John Mackey:

Josh finished the trail and beat the previous record by a full 5 days–59 days and 8 hours.  This is an amazing accomplishment and I’m very proud of him.  It was an honor to provide the financial and logistical support for him to accomplish this.

For the record–I stopped eating even pastured eggs from my own pasture raised chickens about 6 years ago, so I’ve been strictly vegan for 6 years now (vegan plus a few pastured eggs from my own chickens for 10 years).

Sorry to hear that some of you don’t like Whole Foods Market (or me) very much.  However, I challenge you to come up with another food retailer who has done anything close to what Whole Foods has done to educate people regarding the benefits of a plant based diet or who has done a fraction of what we have accomplished in lessening the suffering of billions of livestock animals.

Oh, yes, I’m also on the Board of the Humane Society of the United States so I guess I’m guilty of more crimes against animals in my strong support for this organization both with my time and my money.  I’ve been astounded over the past 4 years of being on this board with how much good this one organization actually does in the world for animals.

It is easy to to judge and attack others for being less “pure” than oneself.  It is far more difficult to actually make a real difference in the world and to really change things for the better.  Best wishes in following your own heart’s path.  I will continue to follow my own.

Biking and Beer

» August 4th, 2013

Today I hopped on the bike to participate in a little Sunday ritual known as The Whole Foods Experience. The list was long and the ride was short (but hot–as in a 100 degrees hot). The air in Whole Foods is a semi-welcome chilled waft of Hatch chiles and bar-b-que smoke (no, Mackey has not eliminated those meat counters.).

Milling through it are people of impossible beauty. It’s almost painful to absorb, these gods and goddesses with their sculpted and decorated bodies and push baskets overflowing with kale and collard greens. Sometimes I just stop and stare through my designer eyewear and absorb the awe of the place. Today I did so next to a cornucopia of speckled dried beans. Such an aesthetic playground, my local Whole Foods.

On the way home I pedaled down 5th Street past a row of bars. People (people!), on a Sunday afternoon, were whooping and partying and acting as if it was the end of the world. These young and gorgeous party-minded folk were, by the sound of their revelry, numerous drinks deep into their Sunday afternoon escape from reality.

We judge them, perhaps pity them, as we pass by in stable sobriety. But their hard cracks of laughter remind us that living well is the best revenge. Who had it better at 4:30 on a Sunday afternoon in Texas: the fool riding his decrepit bike through a construction zone in 101 degree heat bent out of shape about bar-be-que or the hedonist indulging his inner Falstaff at an Austin icehouse?

So I dodged traffic, took over a lane, and pondered beer. I drink beer with what I call “consistent moderation.” Never too much at once, but often. Alcohol is frequently associated with escapism, and it’s pretty much considered pathetic if a person must drink to escape. Lost in this hackneyed characterization, though, is something rather important and overlooked about alcohol: it can stick you hard to reality, make you feel it with added force, and become a portal to beauty and peak experience. I’m a sucker for a peak experience.

I don’t want to overplay the hand here. Alcohol destroys. I’ve seen it with loved ones and so have you. But like anything we choose to put into our bodies, it’s how and why we do it that matters more than whether or not we do it at all. In my saddlebag (my pannier) was a six pack of Stone IPA. Beer. Vegan Beer. Delicious vegan beer inspired by the British as they colonized India. It’s complicated, consumption. But also, on some Sundays, so delightfully simple.



Josh Garrett’s 2,655-Mile Vegan Journey

» June 10th, 2013

Imagine hiking 42 miles in a single day. Imagine doing it over the toughest terrain, be it vast stretches of merciless desert, cragged mountainsides, or raging rivers. Throw in a 30-pound pack and a few rattlesnakes to dodge. Now, if you can get your head around such a challenge, imagine doing this for 63 days in a row, over 2,655 miles, from Mexico to Canada. Ridiculous, you would think. Impossible. 

Not if you’re Josh Garrett, a 30-year old track coach and exercise physiology teacher at Santa Monica College. Garrett will not only leave sometime this week to hike the famed Pacific Crest Trail, but he will do so as a relatively new vegan aiming to break a relatively new record: the 64 days, 11 hours, and 19 minutes it took Scott Williamson to hike the trail in 2011.

Garrett is no novice. He has hiked the trail before, in 2009, and recalls the journey as “one of the greatest experiences of my life.” It took him 88 days. Between then and now, however, two experiences have braided into one to make his current record-breaking quest an inspiring reality.

First, he went vegan. This change was instigated in 2011 by getting to know a couple of turkeys rescued by a friend. After coming to know (and adore) these animals, he watched a Mercy for Animals undercover video of a slaughterhouse employee using live turkeys hanging from a conveyer belt as punching bags. “I was sickened,” Garrett explained, “and my own consciousness started to change.”  The fact that a plant-based diet had the added benefit of providing Garrett unprecedented reserves of energy was equally critical to his decision to reconquer the PCT.

Second, last year Garrett met a friend who also happened to be an avid hiker and vegan. This person recognized Garrett’s considerable talent and encouraged him to go after Williamson’s record, offering to sponsor Garrett by providing not only moral support, but food, water, and hiking gear. That friend was John Mackey, Whole Foods CEO. Mackey said, “Josh is not only a very nice person, but is also the strongest hiker I have ever had the privilege to hike with.”

Mercy for Animals, the organization integral to Garrett’s vegan awakening, is backing the venture as well. Through its website it will give updates on Garrett’s progress, a map of the trail, and opportunities for supporters to donate financially. Nathan Runkle, executive director of Mercy for Animals, said,  “We hope that Josh’s selfless journey inspires others to take steps in their own lives to help prevent the horrible suffering of animals on factory farms by adopting a healthy and humane vegan diet.” Garrett is eager to raise awareness of MFA’s mission.

For all his verve and optimism, though, Garrett recalls having “mixed feelings” when Mackey first floated the possibility of breaking the PCT record. “I loved the idea of the challenge,” he said, “but didn’t want to let anybody down if I didn’t make it.”

I think Garrett can rest assured on this one. The fact that he can even conceive of accomplishing a physical and mental feat that is beyond most of our imaginations elevates Garrett into yet another model of vegan compassion and inspiration for future vegans to follow. Plus, his motivation is, as Runkle noted, so “selfless” that, in a way, it’s beyond failure. “The more I learn about animals used in the food industry,” Garrett said, “the more I want to help.” He added, “I walk because they can’t.”

I for one plan to cheer him on the whole way. And beyond.