Renee Mahon isn’t a food purist, but she believes in the mission of Whole Foods Market, a 310-store company dedicated to providing the best and most flavorful natural and organic foods available. Mahon recently spoke to the Farmington Area Moms Club about choosing the best foods for their families. Below are some of the main points she made.
All natural means different things to different companies. There’s no governmental regulation on the label “all natural,” so make sure you read labels to see what’s actually in a product or, if you’re concerned about it, what environment it’s made in. At Whole Food Market, all natural means “no artificial colors, preservatives or sweeteners, and no antibiotics in the meat, fish and dairy,” she said.
Not all Whole Foods products are organic, but all are third-party certified. Whole Foods offers an array of products from organic farms – those that follow strict organic practices, including not using pesticides or hormones – as well as conventional and transitional farms. Transitional farms are those in the process of becoming organic. However, Whole Foods does have a third party certify the quality of all the foods it carries.
The Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value brand can save you money. The natural and organic product line, which includes everything from bath and body products to snacks, beverages and frozen foods, is based on the idea that the price will remain the same 365 days a year.
The Local Producer Loan Program helps small companies become Whole Foods suppliers. While Whole Foods values local farms and other suppliers, it’s not always practical to work with them. Sometimes a small operation isn’t able to produce enough product to stock Whole Foods’ shelves – especially because there are so many stores and the company likes to maintain some product line consistency. However, Whole Foods provides loans to small companies, which enables them to rent the kitchen space they need to produce more product. “There are ways for us to work with local companies,”Mahon said.
There are trade-offs when it comes to buying organic foods. Mahon recommends buying organic, but she understands it’s not always practical. Costs alone can deter people from buying everything organic. She suggests, instead, that people focus on the things they eat most and buy those organic. She also has a top ten list of foods to buy organic, which includes peaches and apples (conventional farmers use lots of pesticides on them), milk and eggs (because of the hormones the animals are given), and strawberries (they show high levels of fungicides, which can be carcinogens).
Visit Whole Foods in West Bloomfield, Troy, Rochester Hills and Ann Arbor. There’s also a Detroit store slated to open in 2013 that will feature products made and certified at Eastern Market’s kitchen.
For more information, visit www.wholefoodsmarket.com.