Promoting health and running a thriving business requires a deft touch.
Last week (9-4-12), Jimmy McWilliams sent an open letter to Whole Foods Market calling for the end of meat sales in their store. Two days later, the CEO of Whole Foods, John Mackey, responded to that letter.
The key point in Mr. Mackey’s response was that eliminating meat sales at Whole Foods would not reduce meat consumption; it would just mean that their customers would be buying their meat somewhere else.
McWilliams letter began: I write with a simple, if revolutionary, idea: close all your meat counters. Every single one. Forget (for the moment) dairy and eggs and all the animal-based products dependent on systematic suffering that you believe are integral to a robust stock price. We can deal with these items later. For now, as a step toward a better future, just shut down the meat markets. Forever.
(See link below for the complete, very lengthy letter)
Many other vegans & vegetarians out there might be thinking the same thing as Mr. McWilliams. But, as Mr. Mackey explains in his response, taking meat out of Whole Foods would do more harm than good.
- First of all, Whole Foods is a publicly traded corporation and the CEO would get fired for making such a foolish move of “voluntarily committing business suicide.”
- Secondly, it would simply mean that fewer people would shop at Whole Foods and therefore fewer people would be able to hear the healthy eating message that Mr. Mackey and his associates are promoting.
- Finally, more animals would suffer because those lost Whole Foods meat sales would now be enjoyed by grocers who don’t embrace the animal welfare standards of WFM.
As a business professional and an activist for more whole, plant-based foods, I am a big fan of Whole Foods Market and John Mackey. Sure, the majority of their “calories sold” are not health-promoting, but the “healthy eating message” can be seen throughout their store. And I applaud Mr. Mackey’s very thoughtful response back to Mr. McWilliams; provided here in its entirety:
In response to your open letter, Whole Foods Market has no plans to stop selling meat and poultry…or seafood, eggs and dairy items for that matter. Our work in the world of animal welfare makes a difference in the way hundreds of millions of farm animals are raised every year. It supports a network of several thousand hardworking farmers and ranchers who are improving the welfare of livestock animals.
Giving up on our initiative at this point won’t slow the rate of animals being processed and it won’t encourage Whole Foods Market’s carnivore customers to stop eating meat. It will simply shift purchases of meat to other retailers, to those that have not invested millions of dollars and many years of hard work to ensure that animals are raised with care and respect, and slaughtered with a minimum amount of stress. Whole Foods Market isn’t selling humanely raised animals simply because they are eventually killed for food. That is not true.
Also, for you to suggest that selling meat is only about the bottom line at our company simply is not true either. Our first stakeholder is our customer and the most of them purchase and eat meat. As a mission driven company, it’s our job to offer high quality choices to our discerning customers to accommodate their food preferences.
We are committed to prompting real change in the meat industry. And, as you point out, we are also working hard to help educate consumers about the importance of incorporating more whole plant foods–primarily vegetables, grains, beans and fruits– into their diets, which as a result means less meat consumption. As you know, we have many more vegan and vegetarian shoppers than conventional grocers, but the vast majority of our customers purchase animal foods. At the most, about 10 percent of our customers are strict vegetarians and probably around three percent are strict vegans. To not offer a full array of food options is basically suggesting that we voluntarily commit business suicide.
To give you perspective, Safer Way in Austin was a strictly vegetarian store and our sales were low. When we relocated the store, changed the name to Whole Foods Market and began selling meat, our popularity blossomed in the Austin community and our sales increased by 15 times.
By expanding our offerings to all types of foods including meat products, we were able spread awareness of natural and organic alternatives and grow over time to 340 stores in three countries. We have gone to great efforts to improve our animal welfare processes and we have made great progress. We provide transparency at the meat counters through farm traceability and Global Animal Partnership’s 5-Step™ Animal Welfare Rating system. We would like to offer you the opportunity to visit a few of our ranchers and farmers who have achieved high animal welfare ratings, meaning they have cleared more than 100 hurdles for humane treatment above and beyond what conventional producers do!
Let me know if you are interested in touring some farms.As we continue to grow, we are uniquely positioned to affect animal welfare across the nation and around the world. We pledge to continuously help promote real and positive change for farm animals. To do so, we must commit to significantly improving the meat industry rather than abandoning it altogether.Thanks for your perspective. We have long respected your work and we appreciate your patronage, thoughtful insights, and you being a champion of our brand.
Sincerely, John Mackey, Co-Founder & Co-CEO
And there’s much more to the Whole Foods Story. In my earlier blog about the company provided below, I shared a story that most Americans have never heard—the story about teaching employees and helping them learn how to take charge to their health. From that blog:
“From my perspective, the big story in this video is that it features a prominent CEO—taking personal responsibility for the health and welfare of his employees. John Mackey has been a vegan since he was a young man but has only recently learned the complete truth about nutrition. Like myself, he learned it from the same medical professionals featured in our book.”
And here’s what he said about The China Study on Amazon:
“The most important book on health, diet and nutrition ever written. Its impact will only grow over time and it will ultimately improve the health and longevity of tens of millions of people around the world.”
- Source article. Open letter to Whole Foods from Jimmy McWilliams
- Source article. John Mackey, CEO of Whole Food Market, Responds to James McWilliams Letter Calling for an End to Meat Sales.
- Earlier blog. Promoting health and saving money at Whole Foods Market
One more thing, with the exception of our book, this entire kit below can be purchased at all of the Whole Foods stores. Why not ask for our book at your favorite WFM? Our book is all about leadership and I’m sure Mr. Mackey would like it.
Handy 4-piece take-charge-of-your-health kit—from Amazon.com
- The movie that’s changing the lives of millions: Forks Over Knives DVD
- Healthy Eating, Healthy World, The “big picture” about food (our book)
- An essential scientific resource: The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell
- Dr. McDougall’s new book, The Starch Solution, with lots of great recipes.
Want to find out how healthy your family is eating? Take our free 4Leaf Diagnostic Survey. It takes less than five minutes and you can score it yourself. After taking the survey, please give me your feedback as it will be helpful in the development of our future 4Leaf app for smartphones. Send feedback to email@example.com
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Got a question? Let me hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or give me a call on my cell at 917-399-9700.
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Blogging daily at hpjmh.com…from the seaside village of Stonington, Connecticut – Be well and have a great day.
—J. Morris Hicks, board member, T. Colin Campbell Foundation