Monthly Archives: February 2012

Healthy Living Raw Dairy Real Food

8 Reasons I Won’t Shop at Whole Foods When it Opens in Boise, Idaho

Over the last 5 or 6 years, I’ve been hearing the question, “why doesn’t Whole Foods come to Boise?” Before I knew much about food and nutrtion, I too thought this would be a great thing, to have such a pillar of whole foods and health in our city.

This was before I realized what Whole Foods really is: a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  After educating myself, I have learned all about Whole Foods and their mission to sell “healthy food” to the consumer market.

Over the years, I have shopped at Whole Foods in other cities when I traveled and had no other choices. I also do everything I can to bring my own food with me – especially if I’m driving. I want to avoid having to pay the expensive prices Whole Foods charges for their products, especially because I know that I’m really not getting what is claimed on the label for my money.

8 reasons I won’t shop at Whole Foods in Boise, Idaho:

1. Whole Foods claims to be anti-GMO. They have engaged in large anti-GMO campaigns throughout their history.  But the fact remains, Whole Foods carries a great deal of GMO products in their stores.

GMOs are becoming more and more pervasive in our food supply. Most soy, corn, canola, and cotton come from GMO sources. There are currently no labeling laws in the U.S. If something isn’t labeled “non-GMO” or “GMO-free” it’s probably GMO.

If you watch this video, you can see that when Alexis Baden-Mayer, Political Director of Organic Consumer’s Association asked a Whole Foods employee whether store products had GMO  ingredients in them, the question was patently avoided. When you shop at Whole Foods, you are likely buying GMO foods without realizing it.   How can a corporation claim to be anti-GMO and continue to carry GMO products? It’s wholly abhorrent, and sends a mixed message to the consumer public. Wouldn’t a company that is so outspoken about GMOs be eager and open to answer the question? In my opinion, this refusal to answer the question shows that they in fact do have GMOs in their store.

In 2011, Organic Consumer’s Association featured an article talking about how Whole Foods admits they sell GMOs, and Natural News also featured an article talking about how despite its best efforts, “products sold at Whole Foods do, in fact, contain genetically engineered ingredients, even when Whole Foods would prefer they didn’t.” Even with this recent information being released, Whole Foods continues to make it seem like they are anti-GMO, when clearly they are not. If they would just drop the pretense of being on an anti-GMO campaign, it wouldn’t be nearly so deceitful.

There are so many issues with labeling now and misinformation being conveyed to consumers, many consumers believe that just because a product carries the word “all- natural“, “organic“, “low-fat“, “low sodium“, “lean meat” on its label, that makes it safe and healthy to consume.

This is not the first time I’ve blown the whistle on Whole Foods. In January of 2011, I wrote a post about big corporations who were agreeing to partial deregulation of GMOs. These companies: Whole Foods, Stonyfield Farm, and Organic Valley, gave their blessing to the USDA about allowing a “co-existence” of GMOs in our food supply. If you understand the inherent threat GMOs pose to our food supply, you would never agree that co-existence is a good thing or even possible.  Many people argued with me that there were only two choices available as stated by the USDA: partial deregulation and full deregulation, and that these entities did the right thing by choosing the “lesser of two evils”. Again, there is no such thing as co-existence with GMOs. Once those organisms are in our food supply, they will contaminate EVERYTHING and cause harm to us, our farmland, animals, and the environment.

Those companies could have just refused to agree to these terms. If I were the one making decisions for those companies, that’s exactly what I would have done, and let the chips fall where they may.  Those consumers who have high standards would have supported them, and their businesses would have continued to flourish. And they would have remained with their integrity intact. As it stands, their ethics and business strategies are very much compromised, and their reputation forever called into question. For those companies, they clearly saw it as a matter of less profit to disagree with those two choices.

2. Whole Foods is one of the most over-priced grocery stores at which you’ll ever have the pleasure of shopping.

For years, I’ve listened to people in my city complain about the expense of our employee-owned and locally operated Boise Consumer Co-op.  Guess what folks, real food costs more.  The fact that you can go to Win-Co, Wal-Mart, or some other discount grocery store and pay $1.99 – 2.99 for a pound of steak is not a good thing. You are still paying a lot for those processed foods (yes, that steak is highly processed and full of chemicals, antibiotics, hormones, GMOs, etc) you buy at the chain grocery store due to farming subsidies (paid for by every tax payer), the fact that the food you are buying has little to no nutritional value, and your doctor bills later. But many people don’t take that into consideration.

So when I hear people complain about how expensive the Co-op is, I think about how amusing it will be to see their jaws drop when they see the prices in Whole Foods.  And it’s not just in certain cities like Las Vegas and L.A. I’ve shopped at Whole Foods in those cities as well as Orlando, Seattle, and others, and prices are consistently higher than any other health food store I’ve shopped. I’ve talked to dozens and dozens of people all over the country who shop in numerous locations, and what I’m hearing from them is that prices are also higher in their cities, 2-3 times higher than any other health food store.  If you think Whole Foods has better prices and selection, you are in for a rude awakening indeed. And even though you are paying more, guess what? The quality of food is not high enough to justify those prices (in fact, most of it is not healthy at all).

3. Whole Foods proudly advertises their support of small, local farmers, and yet the majority of their products are from many miles away.

In this article from Slate (2006), a small farmer from Connecticut explains why this isn’t really the case:

“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.” That hasn’t been the case for years, certainly not since 1990, when the Department of Agriculture drew up its official guidelines for organic food. Whole Foods knows this well, and so the line about the “small family farmers that make up a large percentage of organic food producers” is sneaky. 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.

Okay, I get it. To be competitive and offer products people want, most grocery stores sell produce shipped in from all over. This has been the model of grocery stores for decades and decades. But don’t advertise and market yourself as a company that stocks products from local farmers when it’s very obvious that the majority of your inventory is anything but local or produced by small farmers. In 2008, news reports uncovered the fact that much of Whole Foods organics are not even from California, but China. It’s dishonest. It’s half truths like this, in addition to the blatant, outright lies that Whole Foods tells to its consumers (such as being anti-GMO and stocking many GMO products in the store) which have made me so mistrustful of this corporation.

4.  Even though I do buy some foods from other sources, there are many wonderful, sustainable, local farms in my area which I have been buying my meat, poultry, produce, and raw dairy from for years, and will continue to purchase from in the future.

Here are some of the farms from which my family buys food:

None of these food producers uses GMOs, and I trust these farmers implicitly because they have always been transparent with me and other customers in their practices.

5.  In March of 2010, Whole Foods Corporate office announced that although it had formerly carried raw milk on its shelves, it was issuing a new corporate policy of discontinuing this practice on a national level.

For years, Whole Foods carried Organic Pastures raw milk. Our family drank OP raw milk and ate raw dairy foods for 2 years, and they were some of the best we’ve ever eaten. Organic Pastures is the largest raw milk dairy in the country and has never had an outbreak of pathogenic bacteria during the time they’ve been in business, which is over 10 years. Organic Pastures sells to many, many satisfied residents and visitors all over the state of California and beyond, and continues to sell milk in a variety of stores, businesses, and locations.

I can’t support a corporation which bans the sale of healthy, raw milk and yet allows a variety of inferior dairy products to grace its shelves with the assumption that these are “health foods”. One example is Organic Valley, a dairy conglomerate which is now considered one of the pinnacles of health in the food system, and yet they use ultra high temperature pasteurization, which effectively destroys all good bacteria, proteins, fats, and enzymes in milk. So much for the money you are spending on those products – and they aren’t cheap. Every time you buy Organic Valley products, you are getting denatured enzymes and other nutrients, as well as dead bacteria. Doesn’t sound quite so healthy anymore, does it?

6.  There is already one great local health food store where I do shop and will continue to shop –  The Boise Consumer Co-op, and two brand new businesses opening up this spring, Huckleberry’s Natural Market and Natural Grocers.

I’d much rather support a locally-owned and/or family-operated business which prides itself on being part of the community in which it resides, and has principles in supporting the local, surrounding food system, than a large, corporate, pseudo-health store catering to the affluent who don’t bother to educate themselves about foods and products they are buying, and who are impressed by above all – slick marketing and high price tags. I’ve not yet shopped at Natural Grocers, but I like their mission statement information, and have heard great things about it from others I know. I used to shop at Huckleberry’s Natural Market when we lived in Spokane, WA for a year and loved it.

7. Did you know the USDA standards for organic beef only requires “grassfed” beef to be 30% grassfed?

That’s right. So even though Whole Foods says they have very high standards about humane treatment, grass-feeding, etc., what you are buying there is really only required by law to be 30% grassfed. So even though in some cases you will pay up to 3 times more for the meat they sell there, you are only getting about the same amount of time on grass as feedlot meat. It also means some producers choose to finish cattle on grain for the last 90 to 160 days before slaughter, and that folks, is not grassfed beef.  The last 30 days of an animal’s life is the most critical for assessing nutrient quality of the meat.   

8.   Whole Foods CEO John Mackey posted under an assumed name for multiple years on Yahoo’s online forums, and trashed the store it eventually bought out, Wild Oats.

The reputation and integrity of a company rests heavily upon those who represent it. How can you trust a company whose CEO is engaged in such activities? This deceitful action embarrassed his company and probably pissed off many of the competitor’s stockholders. This action put a shadow on his entire person, calling into question the integrity of his actions. Can we really trust this man or his company to be truthful about the products it sells? He says he “had fun doing it”. Very childish, and doesn’t speak well of his ability to make sound decisions. It borders on pathological behavior.

Some people might believe my purpose in writing this article is to be nit-picky or that I’m just a snob. But this is serious stuff. This isn’t about empty criticisms or bad-mouthing a company that does ” the best they can”. It’s about blowing the lid on corporations who have continually made it a practice to appear green, sustainable, and healthy in the products they sell, but who certainly are not. It’s extremely important we make a distinction between all the marketing and advertising we are continually bombarded with – products which we are told are healthy for us and the environment – and those which aren’t. Sadly, these make up a majority of what’s available on the market. That’s why it’s critical to know what these corporations are doing and understand that they are pulling the wool over our eyes when they tell us they are better than all the other conventional stuff available.

I think these are pretty compelling reasons to avoid large chain stores and support local, sustainable farmers who avoid GMOs in their farming practices, whether it be in crops or feed they give to their livestock/fowl. These 8 reasons also really illustrate the importance of accountability and transparency in our food system and our farming industry, which currently is under a great amount of scrutiny from the real food and sustainable communities for some of the reasons I mentioned here.

If you doubt the integrity of the commercial, industrial food system and farming industries, you are not alone. These issues are becoming more and more visible with food recalls which happen regularly and are documented in various places. All you have to do is a little research, and the things you will learn will make you angry and disturbed. But becoming aware is the first step in taking action against companies and corporate farms who continue to sell unsafe food and who are not thwarted by our own government, which is supposed to protect us.

More posts: 

Is cheap food really cheap? The hidden costs of industrial food 

Questions to ask your farmer – know what’s in your food! 

Processed food and eating disorders – a product of modern society


General Information Healthy Living Saving money

The Solution to Lead-Laden Crock Pots: Hot Plates!
I was just about to bust open waiting to write this post about my new cast iron burner/hot plate.  Some months ago, our crockpot died and I was hoping to find a good solution to all the slow-cooking I do with broths and other foods in my kitchen.

For years I’ve read how most crockpots contain lead, cadmium, or other carcinogenic materials. I really didn’t want to go down that road again. I don’t ever know what to believe since I hear so much conflicting information about them.

I was planning to buy a nice big stock pot for large batches of broth, and then my parents were kind enough to buy me a Le Crueset 6 quart pot for Christmas (pictured above). It’s the best gift I’ve received in such a long time, and I love it!

At the time, we knew we were planning to move fairly soon, but the stove I was using in our current house worked fine to cook broth in the Le Crueset and leave for days at a time. That stove was just a standard electric burner stove, and I really hadn’t thought about whether moving to a new house and new stove would have an impact I might not appreciate on that process.

As soon as we moved to our new house last month, it became evident that we’d have to find a different method for making broth and keeping it on low heat for several days. The new stove is a glass-top range, and it doesn’t cook at all the same way as our previous stove. In fact, all my broths I’ve made on it have scalded, even on low heat. Not good. I certainly don’t want burnt broth.

Enter the Cadco (BroilKing) Double Cast Iron Burner Range/Hot Plate. This was my husband’s idea (he has many good ones). I had seen these in a few places, but had never heard anyone I know of using or owning one. Since I didn’t know anything about these, I had no idea what to expect.  But now I can tell you after having ours for just a few days, I’m so thrilled about it! I can’t think of a better solution to our broth making-issue with our current stove.

Pros: There are so many good things about the hot plate. Like a crockpot, it’s great for keeping  just about any foods on low heat that you don’t have room for on your stove, and want to leave for some hours or days. And just like a stove, you can use any of your own pots or pans on it.  The one we ordered has a double-burner, but you can order single burner units as well. I highly recommend the double-unit because it allows you to cook more food at once, and is especially handy for anyone who prepares multiple dishes regularly for home use (like us since we make broth all the time) or for when you have gatherings.

I find it is especially useful when I have over-sized pots too because it’s not uncommon for me to have every burner on my stove being used at once, and things can get pretty crowded.  In fact, at least once a week I am using two of my stockpots at the same time. When I’ve had two big stockpots on the stove at once, there simply isn’t room for anything else but my smallest pots on the other burners. And I find that I still need to be able to put my medium-sized pots on the stove at the same time to cook other foods, and they just won’t fit (especially on a glass-top range where pots and pans slide around so much). The hot plate solves that problem easily, and I can leave it on for days at a time without worrying about scalding or burning, and it’s just as well-contained as the crockpot cooking I’ve done for years.

It has heat settings which go from 1 up to 12, and I find that for broth somewhere between 2 and 3 is great to keep soups, stews, casseroles, broths, and other foods warm for extended periods of time.

Setup: When you take your hot plate out of the packaging, there is no assembly, but you will need to turn the heat on each burner for 10 minutes, to allow the factory coating (some kind of oil, my husband says) to burn off to prepare it for use. This does cause some smoke to collect in your kitchen, so make sure you turn on the fan and open windows for good ventilation. You may even want to vacate the room or house while this is happening, or if possible, put it outside if you have an outdoor outlet to plug it in.

Cons: I really can’t find anything negative about this product, other than the fact that you will definitely have to spend more than you would on a crockpot. However, you also have the capability of cooking on two burners with the dual-plate model (even though one burner is smaller), so it’s like getting two crocks in one unit. In my opinion, over the years you will save money buying crockpots that might not last as well as have the potential to leach chemicals like lead and cadmium into your food – which will ultimately become another health burden and expense to deal with later.

Also, when we first ordered our unit, one of the burners on the original was defective and didn’t turn on. We called to report this, and they promised to immediately replace it with a brand new one by sending another out to us that day. It did take awhile for both of the units to be sent to our home, but the wait was so worth it!

Price: The hot plate we purchased cost about $178.89 retail, and was about $190 including shipping, which I think is a great deal considering I won’t have to worry about lead leaching into my food anymore, and I likely won’t be replacing this unit for quite awhile. Since I started cooking, I’ve gone through at least 4, maybe 5 crockpots. Unlike many products that are made in China, Taiwan, or other countries where the emphasis is on quantity and not quality, the Cadco hot plate is a German product and has a limited 2-year warranty from the date of purchase.

Conclusion: The hot plate is a great investment if you plan to do multiple cooking projects at once, especially for those who cook a lot of broth, soups, stews, casseroles, beans, rice, and other large meals. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves to cook! I’m incredibly satisfied with this purchase, and I’m wondering now how I ever did without it.


This post is part of Sarah The Healthy Home Economist’s Monday Mania Carnival and Fat Tuesday at Real Food Forager.