February 2007 Archives
John Mackey, co-founder and CEO of Whole Foods, and Michael Pollan, author of “The Omnivore's Dilemma” and professor of journalism at UC Berkeley, shared the stage at Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall. I flew out for the event, and will cover points raised in this short blog posting and also in future issues of Vegetarian Organic Blog.
Pollan is best known for his bestselling book, in which he slammed Whole Foods Market. Pollan and Mackey have been debating points raised in the book in a series of online arguments and counterarguments, which began with a persuasive “Open Letter” by Mackey.
Though last night’s public encounter symbolizes the culmination of the ongoing debate since the publication of “The Omnivore's Dilemma,” it also marks the birth of a new "beyond organic" food movement.
Mackey's multimedia presentation, called "The Past, Present, and Future of Food," was captivating, persuasive and powerful. He gave a brief history of food (starting with hunting and gathering) to the present. Mackey offered his insightful perspective of where we are and where we are headed.
It was also newsworthy: Mackey announced several new programs that Whole Foods is adopting and implementing in an effort to take a more proactive approach in social and ethical issues, as well as in the quality of food available to consumers (see post below).
Mackey also said we are now at a tipping point. The organic industry faces a challenge because the companies that have made money with the industrial food production system won't want to give up their power.
Mackey believes the agent of change will be what he calls “conscious capitalism.”
Mackey also advocates change in Washington. The first step: Stop government subsidies of agribusinesses. He believes that in 20 years feed lots could be illegal.
Mackey's overarching perspective is that organic foods in general and organic standards in particular are inadequate. We need to go beyond organic.
He said that the problem with our current industrial food is that it's designed to maximize quantity -- often at the expense of quality.
Change is coming, and it will be driven by shoppers. This is where conscious capitalism comes in. We need to educate ourselves and eat with intelligence and education. (For example, in our desire to cut food costs, we should think in terms of eating seasonal organic foods, rather than saving money with non-organic.)
(I will cover his initiatives and ideas in much greater detail in the upcoming issue of my Vegetarian Organic Blog newsletter.)
EXCLUSIVE: Whole Foods Market co-founder and CEO John Mackey announced last night during a special talk at UC Berkeley three new initiatives that, if successful, could dramatically improve the quality of food available to Whole Foods customers – and to the customers of other stores as well. (Note that at post time this news has not yet been announced or reported anywhere.)
1. Whole Foods is starting a $30 million venture to fund food artisans around the world who have unique methods of making unique and healthy foods.
2. The company is now working to develop an organic farm rating system that’s similar to the ranking system for hotels and restaurants, with each producer given a number of stars, from one to five (five being best). He noted, alarmingly, that most organic livestock farms currently could receive probably only a 1. The company is already working directly with a farm that could probably be a 4.
3. Whole Foods is forming a partnership with Fair Trade and will develop a new seal of approval called the "Whole Trade Guarantee."
Additional details on the initiatives will be posted on this blog and explored in depth in my Vegetarian Organic Blog newsletter.
Beef and milk producers can legally sell you cloned foods without telling you. Here's what to do about it. Plus, Oscar goes green; good things -- and bad things -- from your local healthy market and this week's Vegetarian Organic Recipe of the Week! It's all in the current issue of Vegetarian Organic Blog!
The Oscars will feature a special eco showcase called "The Ultimate Green Room" presented by Christie Communications, a Santa Barbara-based company. At "The Ultimate Green Room," celebrities and VIPs can enjoy natural healthy food and other products and experience full spectrum lighting. "The Ultimate Green Room" will host eco-friendly companies that promote natural living, environmental sustainability and eco awareness. I'll be covering this personally, so make sure you're subscribed to my newsletter, "Vegetarian Organic Blog," to get my report.
Chinese consumers are increasingly embracing organic food -- which can cost ten times more -- as pollution, fatalities and the exposure of shoddy practices create fear about "conventional" foods. New research shows more than 60 percent of urban Chinese are willing to pay more for organic foods. "In the past three months, state media reported a government crackdown on meat processed from sick or dead animals, a ban on duck eggs found to contain a cancer-causing dye, and the arrest of a factory manager for allegedly making lard from sewage and recycled industrial oil...Pesticide poisoning already affects half a million Chinese a year, causing more than 500 fatalities, the government says. The World Bank blames the country's air pollution for more than 400,000 premature deaths annually."
I had a great trip to New York recently. Not because New York is new to me -- I lived there for a decade and travel to the Big Apple more than once a month. And it wasn't because of random celebrity sightings (I saw Joan Rivers, Patricia Heaton and Cuba Gooding Jr.). It was a great trip because I lost my wallet. Click here to find out why -- and what all this has to do with Valentine's Day -- along with a new recipe and more in the current issue of Vegetarian Organic Blog.
While flipping through my TiVo'd cooking shows last night, I was horrified to see Rachel Ray -- once again -- agressively pushing junk food, confusing people about what's healthy and generally making the world a worse place. Why have we made a celebrety out of a cooking show host who makes "food" with dough in a can? She tells how easy it is to make pepporini pizza twists and actually suggests that it's a fun and good meal to prepare with your kids. We need a cooking show to tell us that junk food is good?
Then she introduced a guest who shared time-saving tips including the gem that disposable dishware helps you not only save time, but is good for the environment because it saves water and the plates can be recycled. Seriously, are we being punk'd? Disposable dishes are now good for the environment? Does she not know that it requires petroleum to make, package and distribute plastic dishes and that if every household in America followed her advice we would only accelerate global warming?
Because of her enormous popularity, Ray's constant dispensation of such ignorant drivel -- actively preaching the gospel of disease-causing junk food and promoting the most vile, consumer-culture practices as "good for the environment" is beyond irresponsible. Here is one bloggers' view of Rachel Ray and other Food Network Celebrities.