News and Notes

Whole Foods Calls Joel Salatin For Help

21 November, 2006
Whole Foods called me a couple of days ago. I will report the conversation with the Charlottesville (NC) Whole Foods grocery manager as accurately as possible, and you will see that it completely vindicates Michael Pollan's observations in his book The Omnivore's Dilemma.

For background, Pollan's recently-released blockbuster book created a firestorm at Whole Foods, the nation's largest organic foods supermarket chain. The founder, John Mackey, began an internet debate with Pollan when the author observed that the farms supplying the chain were neither local nor significantly different than their conventional industrial counterparts.

This raised Mackey's ire and created a verbal tempest between the two.

Recently, the Charlottesville Whole Foods grocery manager called asking for eggs.

I wasn't in so he left his message on the voice mail and I called him back two days later.

He said he had a supply glitch and needed to get some eggs in a hurry. He was not interested in our supplying this store, which is only 30 miles from our farm. He just needed some eggs quickly to get out of a pinch.

But in the two days it took me to respond, he had fixed the problem with the distributor and didn't need our eggs. Not to be waved off so nonchalantly, I pursued him: "Do you have any local eggs in the store?"

"No," he replied, matter-of-factly.

"That's too bad," I said. "I remember when you guys first came to town you used to buy from people like us but since we don't tool around in tractor trailers you quit."

"Yes, that's a shame," he said. No attempt to deny it, just regret that this was the new reality.

But he quickly assured me that the chain was trying to connect to local farmers, and they would host four farmers' market days next spring.

And then he made the big Freudian slip. "We're looking for local distributors...I mean, farmers, who whold participate." I would guess that he doesn't know any local farmers. All he deals with are distributors. He had never heard of Polyface, the Salatins, or anything. We supply 20 restaurants, three retail outlets, plus at least 100 families in his town and he has never heard of us.

He said the farmers' market plan was not to let farmers come and sell their wares, but that Whole Foods would buy their stuff and bring it into the store. In order for customers to buy it, they would have to come into the store; the farmers could be in the store and talk to people. He said it was a new initiative to promote local food and farmers. I told him thanks but no thanks. Then the discussion shifted back to the eggs.

"In the future, if this happens again, would you have enough eggs to help us?" he queried. Notice, he's still only interested in this local dumb farmer getting him out of a pinch. No long-term deal is even on the table. "How many do you need?" "We sell 120 dozen a day here," he said. "Well, we get about 100 dozen a day, but we could certainly take you on if we had some lead time and a contract that would lock you in long enough for us to make back the investment in the expansion," I replied.

I wanted to pursue this conversation to the max, to let him know clearly that a local producer could supply all his eggs, and force him to either move the matter forward or tell me he wasn't interested. I had no idea where the conversation would go. "Are your eggs cage-free?" he asked next. "Cage-free? Ours are pastured," I shot back, perhaps a little caustically. "Are you organic?" was the next question. "We're beyond organic. We put our pastured eggs up against organic and beat them like a drum every day of the week," I said, perhaps a bit cocky.

By this time I knew he had no clue who or what he was talking to, so I turned up the heat: "Tell you what, why don't you and anybody else who wants to come, come on out to the farm, we're only 45 minutes away and I'll show you around and you can see for yourself what we're doing."

"Well, we're actually beginning our own brand of eggs and that should fix everything," he said, politely. End of conversation. We said our goodbyes and that was that. Pollan, carry on. Mackey, you just don't get it.

Salatin, Joel; The Stockman Grass Farmer (Nov 2006).

US: Alaska crab group fights imports of poached Russian crab and its mislabelling

5 September, 2006
Alaska's Bering Sea crab industry is petitioning the United States Congress to halt domestic marketing of Barents Sea king crab that is illegally harvested by Russian vessels and seek coordinating international efforts to address the problem at its root. It is clear that almost 30 million pounds of processed crab would not be available on the world market were it not for illegal fishing in the Russian sector of the Barents Sea.

US: Healthy fall Chum Salmon predicted this year

25 August, 2006
Experts predict the fall run of Yukon River Chum (Keta) Salmon will satisfy subsistence smokehouses and commercial fishermen this year but not equate the levels of 2005's near-record

US: Pink as opposed to Red Salmon Season Bountiful

18 August, 2006
Although the Alaska Red (Sockeye) Salmon season has proven disappointing for fishers, pinks have been bountiful to the point where the season may be extended by another three weeks. As of Tuesday (Aug 15), 21.7 million pink salmon were harvested.

Nationwide Poll: 61% of Americans Mistakenly Believe Fish Causes Mercury Poisoning in Children

5 August, 2006
WASHINGTON, Aug. 3/PRNewswire/ Nearly two-thirds of Americans questioned in a new national opinion poll mistakenly believe that more than 1,000 childhood cases of mercury poisoning, from eating fish, are identified by scientists every year in the US. The actual number of scientifically documented fish-related mercury poisoning cases among US children each year is zero.

Fully 61% of respondents believed-in error-that at least 1,000 "childhood cases of mercury poisoning from eating fish" are reported by US scientists each year. The poll, which sampled the opinions of 1,011 Americans, was comissioned by the nonprofit Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) and conducted by Opinion Research Corporation.

"Americans are running scared from the fish counter, and there's no good reason for it," said David Martosko, CCF's Director of Research. "The health benefits from eating fish include a lower risk of heart disease and strokes, and they are very real. But any health risks from mercury in fish are outrageously exaggerated. That message clearly isn't getting through to most Americans. And government officials should remind Americans that fish is still the same brain food our mothers encouraged us to eat."

Activist groups including Oceana, the Environmental Working Group, Greeenpeace, the Sierra Club, and the Center for Science in the Public Interest have bombarded consumers with fish-related scare campaigns. However, the only scientifically documentated cases of fish-related human mercury poisoning occurred in Japan during the 1950s and 1960s following massive industrial dumping of mercury into fishing waters.

The survey of 1,011 adults nationwide was conducted by telephone between July 13 and July 16, 2006 by Opinion Research Corporation. The margin of error is plus or minus 3%.

QUESTION: How many childhood cases of mercury poisoning from eating fish do you think scientists identify in the US every year? Would you say...

About 100,000-10%, About 50,000-12%, About 10,000-18%, About 1,000-21%, About 100-16%, None-7%, Don't Know/Refused-15%, Net 1,000+ 61%.

Source: Center for Consumer Freedom at

Unexpected Kenai River Late Run Strength Results in Additional Fishing for all Sectors

4 August, 2006
The preseason projection for Kenai River sockeye salmon was for 1,849,000 fish, which is lower than normal. Based on this projection and the Cook Inlet Management Plan, commercial fishing time early in the season was significantly less than what is allowed during a year when an average run size is projected.

As the season progressed, the actual Kenai River sockeye run appeared to be even smaller than predicted and ADF&G became concerned about achieving the Kenai River late-run sockeye salmon spawning escapement goal of 500,000 fish. Consequently a number of fishery restrictions and closures were instituted for all user groups.

Kenai River sockeye counts unexpectedly increased approximately July 25, with daily counts exceeding 50,000 fish, Kenai bound sockeye are continuing to arrive at a time when normally the run is tapering off. Through Wednesday, August 2, the number of late-run sockeye estimated to have passed the sonar is about 750,000 fish.

The current Upper Cook Inlet Management Plan directs ADF&G to meet an in-river goal range of 650,000 - 850,000 sockeye salmon past the sonar counter during years when the expected run strength is less than 2,000,000 sockeye salmon. The Board of Fisheries, however, developed the Kenai River Late Run Sockeye Salmon Management portion of the plan based on average sockeye salmon run timing. Because this year's run timing has been very unusual, the goals within the current plan cannot be met without additional fishing opportunity. Accordingly, ADF&G is taking additional measures for all fisheries to harvest more Kenai River sockeye and avoid exceeding the in-river goal of 650,000 to 850,000 fish.

Source: Alaska Department of Fish & Game (ADF&G)

Chile: Salmon companies back to the core of a debate on environmental impact and labour conditions

10 July, 2006
The House of Reps requested that the Fishery and Aquaculture Commission look into the labour and environmental conditions of the farmed salmon industry. The request follows the alleged detection of toxic residues issued by the firm Los Fiordos, owned by the Agrosuper holding, and accusations of inappropriate safety conditions for workers, especially those performing high risk activies.

US: NOAA bans bottom trawling in Aleutian Islands Marine Habitat

30 June, 2006
NOAA Fisheries Service approved a final federal regulation that will close off large tracts of the Alaskan sea floor to bottom trawling for conservation purposes. The Aleutian Islands Habitat Conservation Area established under the new rule encompasses 279,114 square nautical miles and constitutes the third largest protected area in the world.

Beef News: Japan Begins Inspection of US Beef Plants

27 June, 2006
Ten officials from Japan's agriculture and health ministries have arrived in the US and begun inspections of 35 US meatpacking plants in Nebraska, Kansas, Texas and 13 other states, according to agriculture ministry official Hirofumi Kugita.

The officials plan to ensure the plants meet Japanese food safety standards before Japan makes its final decision on whether to resume imports of US beef. Inspections are expected to last one month.

FIS World News: US Likely to Donate Pink Salmon for Foreign Aid

27 June, 2006
The USDA may soon acquire some 1400 tonnes of Alaska canned Pink Salmon for distribution in international food-aid programmes

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