Inside D.C.

Selling more sizzle than steak

Commentary. Sometimes I wonder whether the folks in food retailing are wicked smart, dumber than a box of rocks or just don’t care about main street consumers. The media is all atwitter again this week about Whole Foods’ new “animal welfare labeling,” yet another marketing move by the warm, fuzzy, touchy-feely, way, way expensive food chain out of Austin, Texas. Allegedly, according to research being embraced by various supermarket chains, retailers are now convinced that “humane” is the next big thing in meat and poultry marketing.

Whole Foods is hooked up with the Global Animal Partnership (GAP) and will rate products on a scale of 1 to 5 on the gang’s “welfare” standards. But before we embrace this effort, who/what is GAP?

The GAP board of directors includes Joyce D’Silva, director of public affairs for Compassion in World Farming (CWF); Margaret Wittenberg, global vice president, and John Mackey, co-founder and CEO of Whole Foods; Steven Gross, “corporate consultant” to PETA, and CEO of Farm Forward, an anti-factory farming group; Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS); three organic/natural/free-range meat and dairy producers, and a New Zealand animal behaviorist who works for a private Kiwi ag research group. The “leadership” team at GAP includes Myun Park, co-founder of Compassion Over Killing (COK) and a former HSUS farm animal program executive; Sara Miller, who may or may not still be HSUS’ director of member loyalty/conferences and events, and Dr. Ian Duncan, a Canadian animal welfare professor.

Why organic and natural producers would get anywhere near HSUS and PETA and the folks who used to/still work for them is beyond me. My cynical self says it’s because they might believe the affiliation somehow gives them an animal rights seal of approval in the marketplace, a pass on the demands of the moonbats, that Whole Foods will hold the activists at bay. This may be an “advantage” that continues right up to the point where even organic or natural is unacceptable to those zealots who would define for the rest of us not only what’s “humane” and “compassionate,” but what’s socially and ethically acceptable in our lives.

This is every animal rightist’s and organic producer’s dream organization. It’s a serious mutual admiration/marketing cabal, apparently controlled by Whole Foods, HSUS and the folks who wish to keep Mssrs. Mackey and Pacelle happy. It’s a group made up of the vegan and vegetarian leaders of the world’s largest animal rights groups, including those who make no secret of their desire to see animal agriculture disappear, and those for whom affordability for 95% of the population is no concern. This gang is all philosophy and no practice, or as we like to say in the real world, all hat and no cattle.

It’s great marketing spin for Whole Foods, given its niche market in food retailing. However, it’s also likely other supermarket chains will try and jump on board this holistic bandwagon, buying into the silliness that all America is waiting for “happy animal” labels. Any supermarket chain executive even contemplating such a program needs to pick up a phone book, then the telephone and call any or all of national organizations representing cattle, swine, poultry and dairy farmers and ranchers. Each and everyone of these groups has – and will share and cooperate with the retailer – science-based standards of production that are producer proven, and which won’t force the supermarket to start charging $20 a pound for steak or $6 a gallon for milk.

And to the national farm and ranch organizations: Take a page from the Whole Foods/HSUS product marketing handbook: Package your standards and practices and reach out to the retailers before they reach back down the chain and make unreasonable or silly demands, complete with press releases.

To my mind, these cynical efforts to manipulate the public perception of farm animal care have little or nothing to do with building a better world on or off the farm. It’s all about bucking up the bottom line.

  • I was surprised recently to learn that Mackey, Whole Foods, was a vegetarian. I can’t remember where I heard/read that but if that is true, how much longer is anyone going to sell meat? if these extremists actually find a way to raise the prices so much that the producers actually have to go out of business. I do know that the ARA/EXTREMISTS don’t have a problem with INCREMENTALLY taking our rights away just as long as they ACHIEVE THEIR GOALS.

  • rosemary may be interested to find out that while there are farms out there that may be called “factory farms”, 97% of all meat comes from family owned farms.Factory farms is a pejorative term, much like “puppy mill” and ARistas would like to apply the term to all farmers other than those who do things they way they say they should be done, similar to what they have done with the term “puppy mill”.

    People like Rosemary should take some time out of their incredibly busy life to actually learn where there food comes from. It does not come from a store (unfortunately an ever increasing belief in this country), but from farms. Stop reading the press releases of unreliable organizations such as HSUS, and watching their highly edited, often faked, videos, and actually go out and visit the farms, learn more about the slaughtering and processing of animals, and the further processing and handling of the meat. Visit chicken houses using barrack caging, then visit free range and/or organic farms. Then decide if those eggs are worth 3-6x the price of “regular” eggs.

    They should do the same for their veggie and fruit parts of the diet. Decide, then, if it is worth the extra cost.

    I was first introduced to Whole Foods when I moved to the DC area about 14 years ago. I quickly found that there was no advantage to shopping Whole Foods other than having a much lighter wallet. I could find better looking and better tasting foods for much less elsewhere.

  • “To my mind, these cynical efforts to manipulate the public perception of farm animal care have little or nothing to do with building a better world on or off the farm. It’s all about bucking up the bottom line.”

    People need to wake up…you are absolutely right but are being way too politically correct about labeling it….it is social engineering at it’s best. Very, very scary…

  • AHhh – – but Whole Foods has been an organization supporting, embracing, and pushing the whole vegan/animal rights movement from the start. Cynthia’s right – he’s a vegetarian, if not a vegan by now, and the agenda IS to force everyone away from meat and animal consumption!

    Wayne Lies and animals DIE!! He’s not out to save anyone but his own self! He’s enjoying all the money millions of idiots send him. Look at the stats – less than 3% of the monies collected helps ANY animal – unless you count Wayne and his cronies.

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