Tuesday, September 27, 2011

How Whole Foods Market helps and hurts

Image representing Whole Foods Market as depic...Image via CrunchBase
With a pledge like that, what more could a food shopper ask for?

If you could afford to food shop at only one store -- Whole Foods Market -- your troubles would be over.

You wouldn't have to do Internet research and hunt around for a steady, reliable source of naturally raised meat and poultry, wild-caught fish and organic vegetables.

They're all there -- in abundance -- at Whole Foods Market. The store even pledges it's farmed fish is raised without antibiotics and other harmful additives.

And if you time your visits, stock up on some items and take advantage of sales and promotions, you would not be spending a great deal more money than you do racing to three, four or more other places in search of savings.

Celebrity chefs

But Whole Foods Market has blinded many celebrity chefs, doctors and other so-called food experts to what the vast majority of shoppers -- who can't afford this premium food-shopping experience -- have to go through to put healthy, nutritious meals on the table.

With many other supermarkets, the discussion is on how to save the most money, not where to find poultry and meat raised on vegetarian feed -- without antibiotics, growth hormones or animal by products.

At ShopRite, for example, you always see big sales on drug-filled Perdue and Tyson chicken, but promotions are rare on Readington Farms, Coleman and other naturally raised poultry.

The Oz phenom

I've watched Dr. Mehmet Oz for many years on "Oprah" and occasionally since he started his own TV show, and I've never heard him discuss how a steady diet of antibiotics in meat, poultry and fish can raise resistance to antibiotics he and other doctors prescribe.

Does Dr. Oz shop for food or is he familiar with what is offered at most mainstream markets? I imagine he's never stepped foot in a supermarket, and leaves all of that to his wife, who probably shops only at the Whole Foods Market in Edgewater, near their Cliffside Park home.

Now, his daughter Daphne is getting into the act with her own TV show on eating healthy. I don't expect much, judging from her book, "The Dorm Room Diet," published in July 2010.

On her Web site, she lists "5 principles of healthy eating,"  including "always have breakfast," "drink half your body weight in ounces of water daily" and "eat at least every three hours."

This from a Princeton grad, no less.

TV cooking segments

I've watched morning TV cooking segments on "Today" and other programs from an exercise bicycle at the gym for more than a year, and have never heard any chef discuss how animals are raised or how animal antibiotics can harm us.

Some of the chefs offer naturally raised or organic food at their restaurants -- more in Manhattan than in North Jersey -- but apparently don't think the home cook should bother to look for them in supermarkets.

When Chef Bobby Flay opened his so-called Burger Palace in Paramus, near Whole Foods, he apparently made a bottom-line decision to serve Certified Angus Beef -- which is raised conventionally -- over a Natural line that receives no antibiotics, growth hormones or animal byproducts.

Lucky for Flay, the clueless reporter who wrote a lavishly promotional story about the restaurant and the chef's family for the local daily newspaper never questioned the chef about the quality of beef used.

Paramus Whole Foods

I attended opening day at the Whole Foods in Paramus on March 19, 2009, and have returned every two weeks or so to take advantage of sales or pick up an item I simply could not find elsewhere.

I stopped eating meat in February 2010, so appreciate the store's fresh seafood delivery seven days a week, and how it cooks or discards  unsold items after a day and a half or so. 

I've paid a lot more for mussels at Whole Foods than elsewhere, but found sand or other problems with cheaper mussels.

Hake is a meaty fish you rarely see outside Whole Foods, and when fillets are on sale at $5.99 a pound, it's a good deal for great-tasting seafood.

But Whole Foods has disappointed me lately.

Slowly, I've gotten my wife to go to Whole Foods for the poultry and meat she uses to prepare her home-cooked specialties.

Missing chicken feet

A few weeks ago, I went to the Paramus store to pick up frozen organic chicken feet, but there were none. A butcher took my home number and said he would call when they came in, but he never did.

Last night, my wife called Whole Foods -- still no organic chicken feet. So, she went to Hackensack Market and bought a couple of pounds of "Grade A" mystery feet.

In place of the organic chicken feet, Whole Foods has begun to offer organic goat meat from Coleman Natural Foods -- free of antibiotics, animal byproducts and growth hormones -- and my wife was delighted with how tender it was in her curry goat.

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