Green giant’s true colours
John Mackey and his Whole Foods chain have been exposed as not quite so ethical as they claimed, says Charles Laurence
John Mackey, the entrepreneur who invented the Whole Foods supermarkets chain - known across North America and now with a branch in London - sincerely believes there is nothing nerdy about his hair. "I like Mackey's hair-cut," he writes on the blog Yahoo Finance. "I think he looks cute!"
That is one of many revealing remarks excavated from the blog by Harpers magazine following the discovery that a correspondent calling himself Rahodeb was actually Mackey (pictured on next page).
The produce at Whole Foods is pitched as good for the soul as well as the taste-buds; beef is labelled as having been raised in 'high mountain meadows'. Mackey has made a fortune as the anti-McDonalds, and good on him for that.
But what's this? "Wal-Mart is one of the greatest companies in the history of the world!" Rahodeb writes. And: "As to union-busting, I hope Whole Foods does it. Unions are a cancer in our society." As for the oft-repeated complaint that the produce at Whole Foods is "over-priced", Rahodeb finds this "quite humorous".
Whole Foods has quality but leave the Birkenstock sandals and the social conscience at home. Just the aviation fuel involved in shipping nice fresh arugula from one climate zone to the next demolishes any claims to being 'green'. Whole Foods is 'green' like the movie stars who drive Toyota hybrids when not flying Lear jets are green.
And what of the store's claims to sewage-free spinach and cruelty-free chicken? Michael Pollan, who exposes the Dark Satanic Mills of industrial food supply in his book Omnivore's Dilemma, is less than impressed. "Shopping at Whole Foods is a literary experience," he writes. "A pastoral narrative."
He bought a chicken named 'Rosie' and tracked her all the way back to the factory where she had hatched like any other. The difference? The grain in her feed was 'organic' and her 'free range' was a patch of grass planted outside the giant chicken house!
You get a fine Christmas dinner at Whole Foods. But forget the story-book pictures of happy farmyards. "I like their food," blogs Rahodeb, smugly. "And I've made a ton of money on their stock." ·
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