Whole Foods Goes Sustainable in the Seafood Aisle

On April 23, 2012, in Food, by Chris Baccus
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If you love seafood, you might notice this blog isn’t very helpful when it comes to seafood recipes that’s due to my wife not liking seafood and my being quite picky about it.  While I am an infrequent eater of seafood, I was impressed today about Whole Foods decision to ban unsustainable fishing. See this article in today’s New York Times: A Ban on Some Seafood Has Fisherman Fuming.

While it isn’t a very popular decision in the eyes of East coast fisherman, it is the right decision and sorry but as our food decisions become more considerate this kind of trend will stop being a trend and become more mainstream.

My favorite quote in the article is this bit of misconception, “It’s a marketing ploy, that’s all.”

It may be a bit of a ‘marketing ploy’, but it’s mostly about the care of our food sources and the fact that some areas and types of fish are over-fished and this is causing some major ecological damage that more and more consumers care about.  What’s happening here is not a ‘ploy’ it’s education.  Like the old Saturday morning spots called “The More You Know”, knowledge is power and that power is being converted into buying decisions at the grocery store.

Whole Foods implemented a Seafood Sustainability Rating system back in 2010 (see image at top of this article.)  That information gave consumers more choices while making decisions shopping.  I don’t think it is a coincidence that the new decision to stop carrying foods with Red rating is any surprise. This was coming.  Give consumers more information and they will opt for betting choices.

This is a good change and I’m happy to be a Whole Foods customer because they do respond to their most loyal customers and this change of food sourcing is one such change. Now, hopefully we’ll see more meat choices like pork, lamb, chicken and beef come from more sustainable sources.  Whole Foods has a few options for grass fed and no options for truly pasture raised chickens today, but it is a positive step to see changes at the meat and seafood counter, learn more about their 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating on their blog.

Thank you Whole Foods!

Here is the video back from 2010 showcasing the rating system they implemented almost 2 years ago:

Food Inc.’s Impact on Our Food Buying Decisions

On December 6, 2009, in Food, by Chris Baccus
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My wife and I watched a very interesting and, by seeing how my Sunday went, potentially life-changing film called “Food, Inc.” It’s basically a documentary that tries to cover the steps of where our food comes from. It’s not as graphic or gory as some documentaries I have watched on the subject of animal cruelty and factory farming. Sure it has a little of that and there are some tear-filled moments, but this film is less sensational and more informational.

After a long discussion with Stephanie about what changes we could make in our family’s diet we decided to do a bit of research. Fortunately, our diet is filled with a lot of home cooking with fresh meats, fruits and vegetables. Plus we buy a lot of organic products. Very little of our consumption is processed foods and we had already eliminated high-fructose corn syrup from our diets a few years ago after Stephanie watched an episode of Oprah featuring Doctor Oz.

What you learn in Food, Inc. is that “organic”, “natural”, “anti-biotic free” are labels that while good are simply scratching the surface and factory farming has bastardized many of the terms. So what do you look for?

Here is an article I highly recommend everyone to read: Avoiding Factory Farm Foods.

Read it and then come back to this article if you care to see what changes we did.

A few easy decisions involved changing our diary choices. We bought a lot of Organic but only milk from the Organic Valley brand. They are very well respected and a very easy decision when buying diary products so we are now exclusively using their products. Sure there are some other labels out there that are just as good, but Organic Valley is pretty much everywhere we shop.

We eat a lot of meat, mainly boneless, skinless chicken which is probably 70-80% of our meat choice. Stephanie doesn’t eat seafood and I eat very little of it. The other 20-30% is mainly beef and a little pork.

Our beef and pork are all bought from Costco. Well, I should say WERE bought from Costco. We’ve decided to go exclusively with a farm that we bought some meat from at last summer’s Birmingham Farmer’s Market – John Henry’s. It’s a local farm that raises pasture beef and pork. They do home delivery in our area. I used to bulk buy from Costco and individually freeze the meat with our Food Saver. Now I’ll just buy bulk from John Henry’s Farm and freeze.

Chicken can also be purchased from John Henry’s but I wanted to see if we could find it more easily since it’s a larger, more frequent part of our diet.

Organic Valley’s meat brand is Organic Prairie that sells prairie raised animals. Problem is it’s very hard to find (Whole Foods Rochester Hills and a Co-op in Ann Arbor) and the cost is exorbitant. For example, frozen boneless, skinless chicken breasts run about $5 per chicken breast. Trader Joe’s frozen all-natural boneless, skinless chicken breasts I used to buy are about $2.75 per chicken breast. Of course the Trader Joe’s chicken is not free-range raised. The best route to buy free-range chicken is to buy from a local farm like my local farmer’s market meat seller, John Henry’s, which charges only $5.29 a pound (or about $3.50 per chicken breast.)

Fortunately, I went back to Trader Joe’s this evening and bought some of their individually wrapped packaged Organic Chicken. It’s about $4 per chicken breast ($7.49/lb.) The difference between the All-Natural I used to buy and the Organic is tremendous. Here is how the label reads on the Organic package:

“These certified organic birds eat organic feed their entire lives – their corn and soy based diet is free of antibiotics and animal by-products. They’re free range, raised in spacious, naturally lit houses and large, fenced outdoor pens, where they are free to roam.”

If you read the article I mentioned above, you’ll know the last sentence is very important and major difference from other suppliers. For instance, I went to Whole Foods’ website and it says nothing of the sort, only the following is mentioned:

Poultry

* No antibiotics — ever
* No animal byproducts in feed
* No beak trimming for broiler chickens and game hens
* Appropriate beak trimming for turkeys allowed when necessary*
* Appropriate litter provided for comfort and to satisfy natural foraging instincts

So there you have it, our changes after a day of research. I’m sure we’ll do some more looking into things with other products, but this at least gives us some good information to ‘vote with our dollars.’

Please share any brands, products, farms, etc. that you do to improve how and what you eat.

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