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November 2009
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How much is a compromise?

This is cross-posted from my personal blog/journal, and is about food, not how I cook it.

I’ve been waiting for the Whole Foods to open in Milford for three years now.  Originally they were building a Wild Oats, but didn’t get very far before the entire chain was bought by Whole Foods, who halted production.  For about a year and a half.  I checked the Whole Foods website constantly, but for the longest time it wasn’t even listed as an upcoming location, and I was convinced the lot and building were doomed to vacancy forever.  Then there were whispers in the blog world…Whole Foods HAD picked up the construction contract, it was coming….I drove by one day and the Wild Oats sign had been changed to a Whole Foods one.  No recognition yet on the official website, but it was coming, and I was excited.  Fast forward to Wednesday, and the doors were open!

Now don’t get me wrong.  When it comes to shopping for the hippie dippie, organic, vegetarian, ethnic food I love, I’ve got it pretty good.  There are two super stop and shops and a shaws within a mile of my apartment, not that I frequent them.  A couple miles away there is a completely Vegetarian store that makes an effort to provide all natural (and when possible) local food.  They also have an entire second floor of natural body products and vitamins.  Life is pretty sweet.  The only problem, is that my local Veggie Haven is pretty small, and while they have a lot, they simply can’t have it all.  Enter my excitement about Whole Foods.  It’s a couple towns away, so I won’t be doing my weekly shopping there, but it’s close enough.  The trip takes no more than twenty minutes (yes I realize finding that distance ‘far’ renders me VERY spoiled) and it’ll be no issue to hit up once a month or so for those rare products I can’t get locally.  And lunch.  I looooove eating lunch at Whole Foods.  So I’m hyped.  But.

I get that doing my shopping in a meat-free zone on a weekly basis is pretty friggin special, and I appreciate that, but in a way it’s also made me soft.  I don’t need to think so much about the fish, cow, and chicken that others are buying, and where it comes from.  I don’t see it, so out of sight out of mind.  When it comes to where they get their animal, Whole Foods is an industry leader, and they’re widely known to care more than most, and proudly tout their wild fish, grass-fed cows, and free range birds.  Great.  So how come when I went to Whole Foods today, the first piece of Salmon I noticed was underneath a sign that said “Fresh Farm Raised”.  WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT?  Further investigation unearthed a sign describing their “fish-farm-theology” (my term, not theirs) and how it all comes from spacious open pens off the coast of Norway, or some such BS.  Incidentally, directly below said sign, was some Cod labeled “Fresh Farm Raised in the USA”.  I didn’t see any biography for that farm.  Now frankly, I take issue with both Wild-Caught and Farm Raised fish.  Both industries have serious problems and HUGE environmental footprints.  That’s why I’ve made a personal decision not to purchase fish or cook it in my home, because that’s what jives with my conscience and values based on what I know.  However, if you ARE going to eat fish, I’d reccomend the Wild Version any day of the week.  All you need to do to realize the difference is look at a peice of farm-raised salmon next to its Wild “relative”.  There’s no comparison in the color.  And I don’t care how much breathing room those Norwegian Salmon have, the little pink color you see is essentially fed to them as dye, and they’re still eating wheat….not natural fish food.  But hey, BREATHING ROOM!  That’s like me getting on an international flight and being told “we couldn’t handle your vegetarian meal request, so you’re getting steak, but hey, there’s plenty of foot room!”.  Doesn’t equate.

Maybe it’s because I’m a Vegetarian bleeding heart that I notice these things on my way by the  fish counter, but my concern is that some of the people actually buying said fish…don’t.  Their theory is that they’ve walked into Whole Foods, so everything they’re buying must be ethical, and it’s not.  Does Whole Foods work off the assumption that some of their consumers just aren’t well enough informed to know the difference?  If they do, I’m losing a lot of respect for their philosophy, and fast.

I didn’t check out the beef or chicken counters, as I normally skirt around those as fast as possible before getting nauseous, but I wonder if I would’ve found the same sort of double standard at work…and if so, can I continue to shop there knowing that their philosophy is so muddy?  Obviously if I walk into Shaws, I don’t expect much of them morally, they make no guarantees.  Whole Foods on the other hand, comes out and says “We’re moral, we’ve got ethics, you don’t need to think about the origins of your food, because we do it for you”.   How much faith do we place in that?  And how do we teach ourselves to appreciate what they do, while still remaining discerning consumers?

I love Whole Foods because of the things they carry that are otherwise rare in my diet…today alone, I picked up fresh-smoked chipotles, sunchokes, purple cauliflower, burdock root, keffir lime leaves, and pink peppercorn among many other items…that they just don’t have space for at my local grocery.  But I’m conflicted about who they make themselves out to be, and who they really are…and what impact their decisions behind the fish counter may have on the price of my produce.


5 comments to How much is a compromise?

  • It’s a great post, you really are a good writer! I’m so glad someone like you have the time, efforts and dedication writing, for this kind of article…

  • Nice post. I really liked it.. Don’t forget to update it regularly. I am looking for new updates dying to read more stuff from you.

  • SomethingNew

    Is there a link to your personal blog, or is it just that; personal? I am not a vegetarian, but I am considering a diet with less meat and I really enjoy what I’ve read!

  • beershevaboheme6

    My personal blog is personal…I don’t share that over here, sorry!

  • Katie

    I’ve been a strict vegan for a few years now and I completely agree with you, but from the environmental standpoint farm raised fish can often be better for the environment overall than wild. If people are going to eat it no matter what, it is much better for the world to eat farm raised. Wild salmon are being depleted by overfishing. If the salmon population decreases much more the ecology of many many many ecosystems will be upset. Yes i know, farm raised can be detrimental, too. I am aware of the fact that Salmon farming is rough on the environment. Farm runoff has been linked to increased mercury levels in wild fish nearby. Fish parasites can run rampant in salmon farms and spread into the wild. Fish feces, copper, and zinc can contaminate the waters surrounding salmon pens.

    With everything comes costs and benefits. There are certain farms out there, though that have worked to cut down on pollution.

    I guess all I’m saying, is keep an open mind. There are many reasons to be vegetarian, and in my opinion, if people are going to eat meat anyways (there always will be meat eaters out there), then i would like for them to at least be knowledgeable and reduce their footprint on this earth. Maybe by eating farm raised fish (from reputable farms) instead of wild.

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