Some say eating whole foods is an entire lifestyle. It’s not just about eating raw foods or eating unprocessed meals. It is about so much more. It’s about bringing environmentally-conscious reusable tote bags to pack your groceries in; it’s about riding your bike instead of driving to work; it’s about dyeing your hair with henna rather than chemicals; it’s about wearing clothes made of hemp; it’s about solar panels, reducing our carbon footprint and backyard composting. Others say the offerings at Whole Foods Market stores are overpriced and overrated.
There are many benefits to eating whole and natural foods. As Whole Foods Market chairman John Mackey says, “There’s no inherent reason why business cannot be ethical, socially responsible, and profitable.” Shoppers can pat themselves on the back for helping the small organic farmer in America, versus foreign workers across the country.
Those who shop specifically at the Whole Foods stores can also feel good knowing that the lowest wage for employees is $13.15/hour, with benefits that include healthcare. Furthermore, no executive makes more than 14 times the employee average. They’ve also purchased a year’s worth of wind power energy for their stores. Fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy and meats without hormones, preservatives, pesticides and other unnatural additives seem like the most basic components of a healthy diet.
Price is one of the main criticisms of Whole Foods Market, and is sometimes casually referred to as “Whole Paycheck” for that very reason. Consumers opt into an agreement where they’re willing to pay a few dollars more for whole foods that they feel are healthier, better for them and more ethical.
Some critics wonder if the movement can be justified. Are the foods locally grown? How do we know there aren’t hormones or additives in this food? Questions aside, the notion that only well-off members of society can afford to shop at these stores suggests that the whole and organic food craze may be little more than a quest for distinction, a sort of status symbol of the rich.
Even though prices are high, the foods market is doing some things to promote thrift. This holiday season, Whole Foods has rolled out a promotional list of environmentally-friendly gifts that cost less than $20. They’ve also offered “Value Tours” of their stores to show consumers how to save a few bucks and include more money-saving tips on the company blog. “We’ve been nimble, and we’re really able to help our shoppers when they may have to shop with a budget for the first time,” said Whole Foods spokeswoman Kate Lowery.