Omnivore’s Dilemma author Michael Pollan
vs
Whole Foods CEO John Mackey

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Timeline and Events

April 11, 2006: Omnivore’s Dilemma is published, and Whole Foods is criticized as representing Big, Industrialized Organic -- detrimental to the local, sustainable food movement.

May 25, 2006: John Mackey invites Michael Pollan to meet in Austin, Texas. At the meeting, Mackey gives Pollan a letter in which he shows appreciation for Pollan’s efforts to educate the public but expresses disappointment that Pollan didn’t seriously research Whole Foods practices before publishing his book. Mackey outlines Whole Foods’ philosophy on organics, local food procurement, land conversion to organic, organic dairy, natural beef, animal ethics, and so forth. Mackey and Pollan talk for an hour and half about these points and Whole Foods practices. They agree to post the letter on both their websites.

June 12, 2006: Pollan responds to Mackey’s letter and posts it on his website, in which he thanks Mackey for their dialog and explains why he didn’t interview anyone from Whole Foods for his book. He also questions their truly implementing practices that align with their philosophy, and therefore invites Mackey to provide further information to justify Pollan to apologize for misrepresenting them.

June 26, 2006: Mackey responds, in which he expresses disappointment that Pollan still does not acknowledge how WF has helped the growth of organics in America, and states that Pollan’s excuses for not interviewing WF before publishing a book read by hundreds of thousands of readers are invalid and/or weak. He denies the need for an apology (as "that’s just ego stuff"), but rather concurs that it is difficult to balance scale and integrity to all-local or all-organic sourcing. He discusses each of Pollan’s previous points -- sometimes refuting the point and more often agreeing that WF should and will try to improve. He outlines five new corporate-wide initiatives based on their dialog.

September 15, 2006: Pollan responds and extends an invitation to Mackey to speak in an open forum in Berkeley, CA.

February 27, 2007: Mackey and Pollan meet in Berkeley, CA, for an interesting and entertaining discussion to a sold-out audience. The event is entitled "The Past, Present, and Future of Food". Pollan gives a brief welcome, Mackey gives a presentation about sustainable agriculture and Whole Foods philosophy and initiatives, and then Mackey and Pollan sit down and have a chat... Click to watch the webcast.
 

Background

Omnivore’s Dilemma: In The Omnivore's Dilemma, Michael Pollan writes about how our food is grown -- what it is that we are actually eating. The book is really three in one: The first section discusses industrial farming; the second, organic food, both as big business and on a relatively small farm; and the third, what it is like to hunt and gather food for oneself. And each section culminates in a meal -- a cheeseburger and fries from McDonald's; roast chicken, vegetables and a salad from Whole Foods; and grilled chicken, corn and a chocolate soufflé (made with fresh eggs) from a sustainable farm; and, finally, mushrooms and pork, foraged from the wild.

Whole Foods: Whole Foods Market is the largest organic and natural retailer in the world with over 190 stores in the U.S., U.K. and Canada (as of 2/07). It has been included in Fortune magazine's annual list of the "100 Best Companies to Work For" every year since the list's inception in 1998, and has received numerous awards and accolades for its work for the environment, social responsibility, and growth. It was founded and is led by CEO John Mackey.


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