Saturday, June 17, 2006

John Mackey Responds to Michael Pollan

I have not yet read Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, nor have I commented on it much here. With so much good commentary available, I thought I'd try to find time to read the book first. This morning, though, I came across this item on Whole Foods CEO John Mackey's blog: an open letter to Pollan responding to his criticism of Whole Foods in his book. Mackey's letter is long, as it provides a very detailed narrative of his company's efforts from the very beginning to consider the production and distribution challenges associate with local and organic food, and to develop practices that address these challenges while still meeting the demands of Whole Foods customers. There's really too much information here to choose a single representative passage; rather, I'll take a shot at summarizing by observing that Whole Foods looks like it's tried to work the difficulties of selling fresh organic and local foods into its growth. Rather than implementing a "one-size-fits-all" system of procurement and distribution, they've created regional systems. Each individual store also has the autonomy to buy locally to meet its customers' demands. The letter's a fascinating read, even if you haven't read Pollan's book and aren't in a position to analyze Mackey's criticism of it (which seems limited to Pollan's characterizations of Whole Foods).

I wanted to give attention to this, as I've offered some of the same criticisms myself -- that is, I've equated Whole Foods with "Big Organic," and suggested that their growth and operation parallels that of Wal-Mart. Mackey and co. take these charges head on, and provide ample amounts of data to support their assertions that these characterizations are misleading.

I'd love to hear your responses to this, especially if you've read Pollan's book, or if you have strong feelings about Whole Foods either way. I'll definitely give Mackey credit for addressing these issues openly -- again, not the way most corporate heads might have handled such an issue.

Via rebecca's pocket.

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