I, and 2500 others, saw John Mackey and Michael Pollan speaking together on stage at Zellerbach Hall at The University of California in Berkeley last Tuesday evening, Feb 27th. Was anyone else there? Curious to see what others took from it.They were both friendly and open. Michael introduced himself, then John, then John delivered a 45 min PPT presentation followed by about an hour of Mackey/Pollan dialogue and some questions from the audience.I have to first mention the audacious (popular word these days) move by Mackey to show several continuous minutes of explicit video of animals being slaughtered inhumanely, raised cruelly, dying slow painful deaths, etc. Sorta bold for grocer.He's a vegetarian. but continues to sell meat, fish, birds, etc—which the audience questioned him about. His reply, and the structure of his presentation and responses to many questions pointed to his/Whole Food's vision of our relationship with food through history as a set of stages, the next of which WF is (you guessed it) perfectly positioned to usher in.Hunting and Gathering, Horticulture, Agriculture, Industrial, etc, leading to the current stage (darn, can't recall the name) which rests on "knowing the producers," "wholeness" of foods consumed, "local"-ness, and so on.Anyway...his vision seemed to satisfy the Berkeley foodellectuals, and myself well enough, though clearly not perfectly. The ethical contradictions and ideals not yet perfected in food distribution couldn't be ignored in the dialogue and Mackey did NOT shy away from them nor would apologize for running a successful business with moral imperfection. He did not pretend to have the big answers set in front of him. He didn't seem to feel he needed to win a debate and attempted no conversion of skeptics, but he spoke openly about things it would be impossible to imagine a Safeway / Jewel / Ralph's CEO to even acknowledge one way or the other. I think this attitude and willingness can do a lot to buffer the heat from WF's core customer base – the vigilantly organic — and retain their prestigious certification.Anyway, Please comment if you attended as well. I would love to hear others thoughts on the event.My most comfortable bet on WFMI is still that chunk of the middle class that continues to spill into higher wealth continuing to gravitate towards the WF brand/quality as large retailers split to cater to the ever-separating upper and lower classes.
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