Whole Foods will no longer carry raw milk, nationwide as of March 13, 2010

This just in from Ontario raw milk farmer Michael Schmidt:

Michael Schmidt and Mark McAfee at the Sacramento state capitol building for a state hearing.

“Bad News are Good News?

This makes it very clear once again: as further the distance becomes between farmer and consumer as more vulnerable we all become to regulations designed to control every aspect of our lives.

I always worried about Mark and his dependency on a few big retailers, which move lots of products instead of many little guys moving less products. I know it is easier and more convenient to have a big customer.

The good news about Whole Foods is, that we are forced to rethink were we have to go from here.

Reconnecting the consumer with the farmer becomes more and more priority. We would be foolish to trust the current Governments of the US and Canada to be the ones who will recognize the problem of the current corporate control of policies. The current attacks on individual’s rights and basic freedoms are stunning and scary. The former Presidential Candidate and Republican Senator Ron Paul in the US is the lonely voice in the political dessert who keeps warning us about the steady erosion of civil liberties.

Which politician in Canada has taken on this responsibility?

We need to get involved in the political realm. We have to stop blaming politicians for their inaction and wrong decisions. We need to become active on all levels.

The time of complacency is over. As we built a new relationship between farmers and consumers, we also need to be concerned about our responsibility to get involved in the political process.

Either all or nothing.

Cheers Michael”

At Michael Schmidt's trial in Ontario January 2009: Michael, Ted Beals, Ron Hull and Mark McAfee

Now here’s Mark McAfee’s report on the situation:

“Whole Foods Corporate with just six hours notice to OPDC has taken all raw milk off the shelves in Washington state, Pennsylvania, and California (all stores nationally). At 0800 hours tomorrow morning WF will not have any raw milk on the CA shelves. They say that it is a national corporate insurance policy issue…yet WF is not taking Spinach or any other raw food off the shelf.

I think that the FDA made a call to the insurance company…or maybe it was the Connecticut liability. We do not know. None the less…we did nothing wrong.

A sign at the empty shelves will go up tomorrow morning that will explain the issue and direct consumers to contact the dairy to find the next closest raw milk retailer. We will staff a person from 0800 to 2200 at night until every consumer finds their raw milk source. WF CA has been very supportive….but the CA WF support has not been enough to convince the insurance policy providers at national WF corporate to keep it on the shelves. OPDC was requested to provide our HACCP Food Safety plan to WF…we have one that we have used for the last year or more since the SB 201 Florez bill effort. This Food Safety plan was developed by Dr. Ron Hull PhD and was even audited by WF Safety consultants a year ago and they said it was really good. We have religiously used it for the last year and it has been one of the reasons we have been able to pass the less than 10 coliform test. We have offered to provide additional insured insurance from our company policy at Burlington Insurance. Obviously, it is only six hours into this change-up and more will be learned next week when our insurance company and WF insurance companies can perhaps work something out…until then  the mom and pops and the CA coops will love the increased business. WF represents about 1/6 of the stores that carry OPDC products in CA  with sales of about $30,000 per week or about 1/3 of sales volume. This volume will shift to other stores and our sales will become more local and support the mom and pops and coops more than ever. We expect that there could be a very serious consumer rebellion against WF. Raw milk consumers are a passionate group.

Wholefoods just dropped a “Wholefood” and it is going to hurt them most. Our raw milk consumers are connected to the dairy and will take their business to another retailer that will serve them cheaper. The good news is that the price points at the mom and pops and coops is much lower than WF. This could be a good thing in disguise.

It is lemonade time again at OPDC. It has nothing to do with OPDC or our quality.

We are working with WF to get this taken care of and get back onto shelves….but all bets are off.”

So what will Whole Foods be trying to sell instead?

The following is from David E. Gumpert’s Complete Patient post yesterday:

“…Over the last few months, I’ve been noticing ever more promotion given over to aceptic, or sterile, milk at Whole Foods stores in the Boston area. A few days ago, the promo, including sale pricing, had become a major display by the checkout counter. Maybe it’s the “organic” label that I find most bothersome, since it suggests this is a real food. I would guess this is the result of a glut of cheap conventional milk….”

A promotional display of sterile (ultrapasteurized) milk spotted recently at a Whole Foods in the Boston area. Do they imagine raw milk drinkers would ever switch to this? David E. Gumpert photo

22 Comments

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22 responses to “Whole Foods will no longer carry raw milk, nationwide as of March 13, 2010

  1. thebovine

    For more background on the potential significance of this move to Whole Food’s bottom line, check out this story on why milk matters so much in food retail:

    https://thebovine.wordpress.com/2010/02/16/why-milk-matters-so-much-in-food-retail-and-how-to-drive-the-food-cops-crazy/

    This story is once again going to give raw milk massive publicity nationwide, as well it should. Even the one food corporation that people might have thought they could trust seems to have betrayed them. Of course it’s hard to judge without knowing the kind of pressure Whole Foods was under.

    Still, I think it illustrates a problem for consumers in depending on big corporations because the inevitable concentration of control in such corporations creates “levers of power” which the power elites will find ways to exploit in order to drive their agendas.

  2. Milkmen USA

    So, this is progress. We know where we stand now – especially with our liberty. Food Liberty. Milk Liberty. Life and the pursuit of happiness.

    You said that farmers and consumers need to make new relationships. This is precisely why the Milkmen can make a difference. Milkmen delivery direct to the consumer can make a difference and can help this cause. How? Ask us. Ask yourselves. Forget about the big companies until they play fair. Instead, imagine; what 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, or more milkmen in one town alone can do to promote, market, and sell farmers foods direct to the consumer. Including milk, raw milk, and more. Just one milkman can deliver well over 100 hundred gallons of milk to one hundred customers in one week. Multiply that times five routes, and then times five, ten, twenty or one hundred milkmen in one week. All supporting sustainable agriculture with many food commodities from milk, cheese, eggs, to meats, poultry, vegetables and fruits, even seafood. Imagine.

    Einstein said it. Do you Got It? Now get it.

    The Milkmen are back!

    Milkmen USA

  3. thebovine

    David E. Gumpert’s coverage of this story:

    http://www.thecompletepatient.com/journal/2010/3/12/another-body-blow-to-food-choice-as-whole-foods-discontinues.html

    An excerpt:

    “….Expect lots of consumer resentment over the action. Indeed, you can see that the logo accompanying this posting looks like a shell of the real logo, and in that respect, it’s symbolic of what Whole Foods has become. I, for one, have been a long time Whole Foods advocate. I defended the company on this blog when the Weston A. Price Foundation recently encouraged consumers to consider taking their business elsewhere because of the chain’s strong vegan leanings. I saw Whole Foods as a defender of food rights overall. But this move to drop raw milk changes my view, and I think it will change the view of many other customers.

    I’ll look for every way I can to avoid making purchases at Whole Foods. I’ll try to avoid buying its vitamins, which I tend to do for convenience, and instead buy online from small independent sellers. I’ll seek out places like Wilderness Family Naturals for even more items than I currently purchase, like nuts, coconut oil, mayonaise, and other such staples. My personal goal will be to reduce my purchases there until, eventually, I’m not doing any business with the company.

    Yes, I’ve already changed the way I acquire food to avoid the dairy case and meat counter at Whole Foods. Now, I want to broaden my efforts, and actively avoid dealing with any and all supporters of the ever-more-sinister campaign against food rights…and make as many purchases as possible a political statement in support of those who are serious about providing nutrient-dense foods, even in the face of the government-business-sponsored onslaught….”

  4. Lauren Casapulla

    Well, this stinks. Whole Foods will get a major complaint from me about this policy change. It’s more corporatist garbage thinking. Without the intact enzymes of fresh, raw milk and cream, I can’t digest it. Most people have a degree of trouble with pasteurized dairy and think it’s allergies. People like me are labeled “lactose intolerant” when in fact we are “dead food” intolerant. We will start buying direct from the farmers through Claravale, Organic Pastures, and other fantastic California farms. WF: Screw your idiotic kowtowing (or should we say “cowtowing”) to insurance companies in with factory farming.

  5. Milkmen USA

    Much more skeptical about who Whole Foods really is now. And what they are. It seems as though Whole Foods has changed. It is even said that Google is now lining the pockets and is the ears of the new administration. Why?

    Just the other day, we visited a Whole Foods store. While we were in the deli section, we noticed that one of the store managers (his name is Michael) working in this department. When we asked him; “Michael, do you work here now and not as manager” – he replied, “they moved me to the deli.” Michael did not sound very happy about this. For five or more years, we know Michael to be very polite, kind, soft spoken, hard working and dedicated and honest. Now they moved him. Why? Our guess is that the move was not fair and we think this is also indicative of how they are changing. This often happens with big businesses. We are skeptical now about Whole Foods. Soon, the entire insider story will come out.

    We see the same in their dairy case. You can bet that all the foods in that case are not the best. They do not have the most integrity when compared to other products competing for the same shelf space. Politics and money is at the roots here too. What you need here now are things like the son of the Baskin Robbins giant to emerge and declare better ways, alternatives to old business styles with models begging for the change for the good. Who was it that campaigned for change?

    The Milkmen are back!

    Milkmen USA

  6. Mary

    Maybe the decision for WF not to carry raw milk anymore has to do with the fact that in the year 2008 7 people in Connecticut became ill from contaminated raw milk and 2 purchased raw milk at WF. The insurance company probably sees the impending $$$$$ that will need to be paid out in the future when another outbreak happens.

    http://www.marlerblog.com/2010/03/articles/legal-cases/whole-foods-to-stop-raw-milk-sales-in-several-states/

    You may want to view these videos before trying raw milk.

    http://www.marlerblog.com/2010/01/articles/legal-cases/2006-e-coli-o157h7-outbreak-linked-to-organic-pastures-raw-milk-one-victims-story/

    http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2009/12/considering-drinking-raw-milk-read-this/

  7. nedlud

    A long time ago, in ‘The Unsettling of America’, Wendell Berry wrote about how small farmers were becoming the latest ‘redskins’, the new Native American, the current crop of ‘lambs for slaughter’ and removal from their land and loss of rights as people.

    I was completely ripped apart by Organic Valley, they destroyed my dairy farming operation, which was very small, only 20 cows. They damaged my life, my credibility, my reputation. And they hurt my family.

    People who believe in large anything, be it Organic Valley, Whole Foods, whatever, are fools. And certain to become unfortunate victims. Though I feel had little choice, I was a fool. Now I am a victim.

    Time to fight back and fight back hard.

    May God bless those whose resist and fight oppression.

    nedlud

  8. Mary Walker

    Perhaps good news in disquise? Perhaps we will rewind the clock backwards and seek out the small store or word of mouth, the milkman?? Perhaps we cannot be shut up (down?).
    This is very frightening on another aspect. We are supposed to have freedoms. What is left really? We are legislated to what we eat, wear, drive, choose in all aspects of life.
    I have always felt that the only real choices or freedom any of us have is “The right to Risk.” We do not have and have not had this, for a very long time.
    Look at life around you. See what has happened in the name of care, health, food, recreation, water, birth and death. In every aspect of life we no longer can choose to do what we wish to do for ourselves. We have sacrificed our freedom for the power of the few, and the so called betterment of the many. I strongly disagree with this.
    However it will not change, we are comfortable, we do not have to take responsibility for anything, we can blame the rulers, or the state or whomever we choose that day. We have a population of complacent, hypnotic folk who find life easier just as it is.
    As I leave this place I feel great sadness and can only hope; that, as in the past, human kind will eventually be forced by nature to take responsibility on an individual basis again.

  9. Walter's Dad

    The writing is on the wall. Organic Pastures can’t make their $millions$ without major corporate outlets like WF – time to move on to another business.

  10. thebovine

    Wait just a moment, Walter’s Dad,

    The story above says that Whole Foods accounts for only 6% of Organic Pastures’ business.

    Publicity from stories like this will continue to drive a growth in demand for their raw milk, so I doubt they’re going to see a drop in sales once this hiccup passes. People will just go elsewhere to get their milk. The optics of this story are just so blatently bad for Whole Foods and will only generate massive sympathy for OPDC and consumer aversion to Whole Foods. I’d say it’s Whole Foods that will take the hit in terms of lost shoppers who will be led to shop elsewhere, driven by the search for new sources of the raw milk they need and want!

  11. thebovine

    Mark McAfee’s comment on the Complete Patient story about this decision:

    “And a word from OPDC….

    In CA, the winners are the Mom & Pop stores and CO-OPs that suffered so greatly when Wholefoods came into town and hurt their businesses so much. The big looser in all of this is Wholefoods.

    This is really tragic….because one of the biggest supporters of Raw Milk has been Walter Robb, COO of Wholefoods. He has been an advocate, a consumer and protector of raw milk in CA. It appears that an insurance company and other WF corporate types out-voted our Raw Milk Night in Shining Armor. I still believe in you Walter….

    We believe that the loss of Raw Milk in CA is a temporary thing and will work hard to address the conditions that will be laid out by the insurance company that has held Wholefoods hostage. This is a national raw milk issue and not specific to CA stores.

    OPDC has a very effective Food Safety plan that was developed with the assistance of WF food safety inspectors, Dr. Ron Hull and Dr. Ted Beals MD and others. This food safety plan has been in effect for more than a year and has been one of the reasons that has allowed OPDC to pass the ultra strict less than 10 coliform rule.

    OPDC has offered increased insurance coverage and other accommodations. All of these things are on the table and will be discussed next week.

    With just six hours notice late on a Friday…this challenge is virtually impossible to redress. Almost as if it was engineered to be un addressable?? HUM??

    I know we have the full support of Walter Robb and the CA team at WF. They have been wonderful and they have expressed that they do not look forward to posting the signs in the morning and telling customers to call 1-877 RAW MILK to locate their raw milk. They know they are about to get the raw milk beat out of them by pissed off passionate consumers. It is not going to be pretty.

    People are going to be really pissed….pissed at Corporate Wholefoods for a betrayal of their favorite Whole food….raw milk.

    Spinach and peanuts are still for sale. So far they have killed 11….raw milk 0.

    The insurance companies must not do math very well. Maybe it is not math…maybe it was a call from the FDA or other strange thing.

    We will work feverishly to get back on the shelves. Until then the other 325 stores in CA that do carry raw milk are lovin it!!

    Any questions please call 1-877 RAW MILK or see http://www.organicpastures.com
    We are manning our call lines for the next week from 0800 -2200 hours every day of the week so we do not miss one consumer. WF CA has been kind enough to post signs directing consumers to call the dairy for directions on where to find local raw milk.

    This will hit Claravale hard as well. We have left messages for Claravale in an offer to help in anyway we can.

    Mark “

  12. thebovine

    In 1994, Michael Schmidt was forced to plead guilty to raw milk charges he was facing. How was he forced?

    Well, his insurance company withdrew coverage from his farm and he couldn’t find another insurance company willing to underwrite his operation.

    How interesting that an insurance company is once again being “used” to enforce raw milk suppression.

    Once Michael Schmidt pleaded guilty to those charges in 1994, he had no further trouble with insurance coverage.

    It looks to me like insurance companies are being used as “tools” to promote policy agendas favoring anti-raw milk factions.

    Am I missing something, or does it look that way to other people as well?

  13. Pingback: Big Triple Play: Raw Milk Weekend Excitement « Journal of Natural Food and Healing

  14. thebovine

    Thanks to Augie for linking to this blog post on Facebook. Here’s Augie’s own coverage of the story:

    http://wholefoodusa.wordpress.com/2010/03/13/big-triple-play-raw-milk-weekend-excitement/

  15. A big problem with the OPDC safety plan is that it doesn’t address outsourcing. Mark has admitted to continued outsourcing from non-raw dairies into 2009 (past the point that its new safety plan was introduced). A large part of the product line — the colostrum and milk/colostrum products — is not tested and has been outsourced in the past.

    How can you ensure cleanliness of your pipes if you’re buying milk from a broker (who brings it from a farm that doesn’t even know it will be sold raw)?

    These products can cross-contaminate others and they still leave the farmer and Whole Foods in the liability chain. If Whole Foods is concerned about liability and food safety, it needs to be very concerned that a big part of the raw dairy case in their stores in California is produced under no apparent safety standards whatsoever.

    I wonder if Ron Hull and Ted Beals approve of this outsourcing practice at Organic Pastures. Perhaps they can comment.

    Amanda

  16. thebovine

    Amanda,

    If outsourcing was the concern, you’d think the folks at Whole Foods would have taken that up with Mark rather than just unilaterally shut down raw milk sales across the country on six hours notice.

    Not saying your point isn’t worth raising. Only that I have a hard time seeing it as a determining factor in this case.

  17. I’m sure the outsourcing *wasn’t* the reason for the Whole Foods decision. However, as a consumer, I am concerned that Mark McAfee is promoting his dairy’s safety plan all the while he has been outsourcing.

    He created the plan out of the April 2008 Senate Cmt hearing here in California when both Ron Hull and Ted Beals were here. He has claimed in this post that the plan has been in place since then. We know from other discussions that he has also outsourced for butter in that same period.

    Is outsourcing acceptable under the food safety plan? I know that Ted Beals, for instance, has insisted that raw milk kills pathogens under reasonable contamination situations, so perhaps it ultimately does not matter to him where the milk is sourced from.

    In any case, OPDC is citing their food safety plan. It appears that since they have outsourced since implementing the plan that either (1) Beals and Hull approved of the outsourcing or (2) OPDC has engaged in practices outside of their plan. As a consumer, I am curious which it is. Ted Beals could surely clarify.

    Amanda

  18. Reality Check

    Fact is, when someone becomes ill and experiences renal failure from drinking raw milk, they start looking for the deepest pockets to help pay for treatment, transplants and perscriptions.

    Whole Foods would be risking too much to continue carrying raw milk and footing any legal bills for the small farms that cannot afford to pay for such situations.

    Let the hardcore raw milk drinkers get it straight from the source. If, heaven forbid, they get sick at least they knew they were loyal to their farmers for providing the best product they could. Maybe they could settle any lawsuits will free raw milk for the rest of their (sickly) lives.

  19. thebovine

    Reality Check,

    The danger you draw attention is nothing new. Whether rightly or wrongly, raw milk has been blamed, on occasion, for such medical conditions in the past.

    So the interesting question is “Why now?”

    What’s changed recently to make Whole Foods no longer OK with the risk of litigation that’s been there all along?

  20. Triva

    I rarely go into Whole Foods now that they do not provide raw milk products to customers! Life is too short to make multiple stops to find what I need!

  21. Pingback: Agriculture Society » 8 Reasons I Won’t Shop at Whole Foods When it Opens in Boise, Idaho

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