This holiday season Whole Foods Market is offering gift boxes and certificates brightly printed with the wish “Soy to the World.”
Whole Foods Market, of course, perceives soy foods and soy milk — particularly modern packaged and processed soy products — as a major profit center. Soy also fits nicely within CEO John Mackey’s vegan agenda and his promotion of soy as the ticket to personal and planetary health. Sadly, soy to the world will not bring joy to the world this holiday season or any other.
The word “soy,” however, fits Whole Foods Market very well. As discussed in my last blog, “Talking Tofurky,” “soy” is urban slang for something false, of poor value or just not what it seems. That pretty much sums up a whole lot of the phoney baloney, pseudo-organic products Whole Foods sells. Indeed a whole lot of what this chain preaches is out of integrity with what it practices.
Heard of whitewashing? The variant found at Whole Foods is known as “greenwashing.” The chain put green leaves on its logo, prominently displays environmentally correct “core values,” and gives mouth service to sustainability yet engages in numerous practices that are environmentally unfriendly.
Bagging It, for example. Whole Foods encourages us to bring our own bags to save the environment and gives bag credits to local charities. Eco consumers feel good about this, but what about all those highly processed and overly packaged foods toted home in them? Soy good to know that not one of those pricey crackers or cookies will crack or crumble. As for those sturdy packages, they’ll survive for years in the landfills.
Soy Local or Soy Loco
Whole Foods talks the good talk about supporting local farmers. It’s one of its conspicuously displayed “core values.” But walk down the aisles and most everything comes from somewhere else. Where were all those little soybeans milked to produce soymilk? Where did they catch those tofurkies? Where did those fruits and vegetables grow? California, Mexico, Chili, India? Not soy often in our own backyard.
How do local farmers feel about Whole Foods Market? Many mutter “soy loco” (“I am crazy”) under their breath whenever they give in and sell to Whole Foods. Farmers who expect a fair wage for their hard work rarely sell there given the chain’s aim to buy dirt cheap and sell sky high.
More acres of the Rain Forest are destroyed for soybean crops than for beef cattle yet soy is touted as green for the environment. Most of the Midwest has been destroyed by the monocropping of three vegan staples — corn, wheat and soy.
“Soy to the World” means planeloads of soy products given to survivors of famines and natural disasters. Seems benevolent, but there’s more to this than good PR.Disaster relief builds global business by making the world’s people dependent upon imported soy and other industrially grown, processed and packaged products. Such “charitable” practices undermine local farmers and cottage industries and wipe out indigenous crops.
Equal opportunity poor health. Yuppie vegans at one end of the spectrum pay premium prices for health-destroying soy foods. Poor people eat donated soy from relief packages. The results for both are malnutrition, digestive distress, thyroid disorders, reproductive problems, ADD/ADHD, allergies, even heart disease and cancer. Soy to the world.
Meanwhile, John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods, likes to be seen as just a regular Joe. He earns only fourteen times the salary of his average ”team member,” after all. While other corporate executives doubtless take home far bigger paychecks, Mackey’s “talking tofurky” here. If he were an executive who “talks turkey,” he would admit to also earning millions in stock options. He might also be sensitive to the fact that his store is widely mocked as “Whole Paycheck Market” because its extreme markups make it soy overpriced for the average consumer.
Whole Foods sells only organic soybeans, right? That’s what they say, but it took months — and an embarrassing expose by the Cornucopia Institute –before just some of the Silk products made with commercial soybeans was removed from the shelves. Similarly, Whole Foods has sold a whole lot of veggie burgers, energy bars and other “organic” products made with soy protein isolate and other ingredients processed using hexane solvents. Cornucopia also exposed that, but you read it first in The Whole Soy Story.
Elsewhere in the store, pseudo organic reigns. Consider factory-farmed “organic” Horizon brand milk and butter. As for produce, the artful displays conflate organic and commercial. And if the internet postings of disgruntled Whole Foods “team members” can be trusted, much — if not all — of it is cleaned with non-organic cleaners. Seems the organic cleaners come out, when the inspectors come in.
Shoppers who aren’t careful may go home with commercial produce just like that found at the supermarket down the block but at a substantially higher price Whole Foods Market carefully crafts the illusion it sells organic, but far more of what it sells is “natural”– whatever that means — or even commercial.
Soyled Health Claims
Is soy the “miracle bean” that can cure everything from cancer to ingrown toe nails? Whole Foods would certainly like us to think so. Similarly, consumers who buy baked and deli goods at Whole Foods are almost always con-oiled, though canola is increasingly replaced by soy oil, which if anything is even worse.
Hemp, chocolate, agave anyone? Health claims for any of these are very “soy” — i.e. not what they seem. Agave, for instance, is tricked out high fructose corn syrup. Chocolate-covered soy nuts are surely the “tofurky” of snacks. Most sanctimonious of all is Whole Foods’ promotion of vegan goods with a green smiley face and the words “I’m vegan!”
All the onions are exactly the same size. Big, round and heavy! All the apples, too.
Never saw anything like that in my own garden or orchard. Yet Whole Foods gives us row after perfectly presented row of produce. Bland but pretty-faced, immaculately clean, blemish free, perfectly made up and not one strand of hair out of place, these are the Stepford Wives of the fruit and vegetable kingdom. Guess Whole Foods thinks Stepford goods provide a stress-free shopping experience. No need to choose. Perfect for the shopper in Calvin Klone jeans.
The Urban Dictionary defines “soy latte” as something overpriced and pretentious, especially something that tastes good initially but leaves a bad taste in one’s mouth. Seems to me that sums up Whole Foods Market awfully well.