Whole Foods Market Customers,
We need to make you aware of an enormous change in our business.
Here is the story…
I, Will Harris, personally sold Whole Foods Market the first pound of American Grassfed beef that Whole Foods Market ever marketed in their stores as American Grassfed Beef. This was almost 20 years ago-the timing just happened to be perfect, and the beef sold like hotcakes. Whole Foods Market soon put White Oak Pastures' Grassfed Beef into the 60 or more stores that they operated:
- from Miami, Florida
- to Princeton, New Jersey
- to Cincinnati, Ohio.
They bought every pound that I could send them. I personally visited every one of those 60 stores, demoing our product for samples and teaching meat team members how our grassfed beef was produced. They sold our product under our White Oak Pastures name, so it was very easy for customers to know they were supporting our farm in Bluffton, Georgia. The folks behind the meat counter knew us personally, and they knew how we raised our livestock. Whole Foods' executive management routinely visited our farm to better understand how to sell beef from small, artisan producers. We hosted monthly training sessions for their store team members and really enjoyed seeing them on the farm.
On two separate occasions, I made formal presentations to the entire corporate staff at their headquarters in Austin, Texas. One of these appearances was for a regenerative agriculture event in early 2021, where I taught their executive team about soil health and resilient food systems.
Over our 20+ year relationship, they sold our pastured turkey, chicken, eggs, pet chews, tallow soap, and leather products, in addition to our grassfed beef. They even made us two Local Producer Loans, one for our red meat plant and one for our Makerspace, to increase our capacity and make us more reliable vendors. We were twice awarded their Supplier All-Star Partner awards.
Then Amazon bought Whole Foods Market, which began the cooling of our long-standing relationship.
Meat purchasing moved from the regional teams to the global team in Austin. In-store marketing was displaced and centralized, too. And, as of 12/31/22, White Oak Pastures' relationship with Whole Foods Market formally came to an end. The same Whole Foods Market that once embraced small, local agriculture is now focused on the same efficiencies that keep farmers from transitioning to regenerative systems. While we hate to see our relationship come to an end, we respect Whole Foods' right and ability to evolve and make decisions for the best of their company. But, we insist that their departure from the company that once celebrated local relationships to the corporation that eliminates them isn't done behind closed doors. If you shop at Whole Foods Market, you deserve to know the company they have now become if you haven't been able to tell already.
My bet is that the Whole Foods Market product selection will be increasingly similar to what you can find at Walmart.
Some of you saw my appearance on The Joe Rogan Experience in November and might say my discussion with Joe on greenwashing warranted me getting kicked out of Whole Foods Market. I'm a big boy, and I've had some tough licks in my life- this isn't the first, and it won't be the last. I stand behind every word that I said, and anytime that question is asked, I'll say it again: Whole Foods is guilty of greenwashing.
One of many examples of greenwashing is deceiving customers by selling products with flashy words that don't actually mean anything. A great example of this is "Cage Free" eggs. The label on the carton sounds great…until you further investigate and find out that the birds were raised in a house with no outdoor access, no room, and no real quality of life. That house now sounds a little bit like a cage, right? Greenwashing is the reason more farmers can't (and won't) transition to regenerative agriculture.
After the first of the year, White Oak Pastures will no longer ship our grassfed beef to Whole Foods Market. If you supported White Oak Pastures by buying our grassfed beef at Whole Foods, please consider shopping online. You can purchase the same beef, along with our poultry and pork directly at whiteoakpastures.com.
Come see us in Bluffton,
White Oak Pastures
Watch our recap of the Whole Foods Market conversation with Joe Rogan and see Will's video version of this blog, here.