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Making Peace with Whole Foods Butchers

Author: | posted 03/16/11 | Print This Post Print This Post |

Just say no.

For years, those three little words neatly summarized my feelings about Whole Foods, and made for a Flintstones-sized bone of contention between me and every food-snob I came across; where my friends and family chomped at the bit to feel good about parting with their paychecks, I saw only a business model predicated on sloughing-off expensive products of inconsistent quality, remarkably mediocre prepared foods, and egregiously priced dry goods encased in very clever branding.

But a certain reader, in response to last week’s column on Costco beef, explained that Whole Foods in Santa Rosa sources 100% grass-fed, certified-organic beef from ranchers right here in the County, so I decided to update some of my facts and figures:

That’s the tag line from their website, and you know what? They’re talking the talk and walking the walk. I’ve been cooking my ass off with Whole Foods’ beef all week – top sirloin, short ribs, and chuck, ground for steak tartare and burgers; stew meat for Marcella Hazan’s beautiful Stew with Red Wine and Vegetables – and from what I’ve seen, I gotta say, it surely doesn’t suck.

Now, before you think I’ve gone soft, let’s be clear: I’d still rather stub my pinkie toe than eat off their steam tables, and I still think you may qualify for County services if you buy their paper towels or laundry detergent. But their beef, while not cheap, is fair for what it is, because what it is is damned good, with a clear provenance from farm to table, an unequivocal insistence on quality, and, no mean feat, properly executed butchery – I know that sounds hyped up, but trust me, I wouldn’t be serving the kids this steak tartare with a Hello Kitty fork if I didn’t believe it:I’m signing off with a shout-out to the butchers, not only because they’re so essential to the quality and safety of ground meat, but because the Whole Foods crew actually know what they’re doing, right down to the sanitation of their grinders and what the cattle eat in winter, and Whole Foods butchery has been something of a bugaboo for me in the past – at the Tribeca location that we used to live near, they were downright incompetent, equally incapable of filleting salmon as trimming a veal chops, even refusing even to grind meat to order. But that’s all different now, at least at the Coddingtown branch, and they deserve credit for getting it right.

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9 Responses

  1. wangofango December 16, 2011 at 4:47 pm #

    “(FWIW, I’ve heard good things about Pacific Markets, but frankly never been inside.)”
    that says it all…..

  2. tina November 19, 2011 at 7:01 am #

    If you are committed to eating local & organic, sometimes whole foods is ACTUALLY the best place to go for that. I shop on a budget at the Farmer’s Market, Fircrest, Safeway, Costco & Whole Foods and manage to stick to my values. Whole Foods does have good sales, you just have to pay attention. Sometimes they are the only place in Sebastopol to buy certain supplements. They serve a purpose, and from what I understand, they treat their employees well and are a very socially responsible company. I found your attitude and article kind of bitter and childish.

  3. Gerry2280 March 16, 2011 at 9:18 pm #

    I don’t understand this colume, either why you wrote it or why I bothered to read it. Whole Foods has great meat and good organic produce. Who are you to trash a market, as you do with that nasty logo, without giving any real reasons. Since I don’t know or care where you used to live, it does not seem very relevent.

    • Proximal.Kitchen March 17, 2011 at 7:13 am #

      @Gerry (and @Andrew) – while I appreciate you taking the time to write in, and while I respect your right to your opinion, howsoever misguided it may or may not be, I also think it’s reasonable for me to expect you to actually _read_ what I write before you comment upon it. Which is my bad, because it’s pretty clear that you’re bitching about _one_ graphic, without having bothered to pay attention to either the following text _or_ graphics. If you had, you’d know that the predominant theme is unabashedly _complimentary_, and where it’s not, the reasons are crystal.

  4. ER March 16, 2011 at 3:24 pm #

    The butchers at Pacific Market in Santa Rosa are great, have been knowledgeable and helpful for years.

  5. Andrew March 16, 2011 at 1:17 pm #

    So why the WF logo with the slash through it? I support Bud’s custom meats and Angelo’s in Petaluma. Local is good. But the WF butchers are really knowledgeable, friendly, helpful etc at the Petaluma Location and I have no qualms shopping there.

  6. Cara March 16, 2011 at 12:18 pm #

    Agree. The folks in the Whole Foods meet dept. at Coddingtown know their stuff, awfully nice too.

  7. Tami Edwards March 16, 2011 at 10:36 am #

    How about promoting the locally owned stores who still have the hometown feel and excellent butchers and they know you by name. Especially their Sebastopol location – Pacific Markets!

    • Proximal.Kitchen March 16, 2011 at 10:56 am #

      @Tami – I completely agree about the value and importance of the smaller, locally owned “artisan” butchers like Rian at Wyeth Acres and the Willowside Meats crew, just to name a couple of my regular stops; in point of fact, I post about them _all_ the time. This post came about because I spent literally years bitching about how crap the WF meat counter was in NYC (and it really _was_ crap), and I was begrudgingly impressed by the Coddingtown version. (FWIW, I’ve heard good things about Pacific Markets, but frankly never been inside.)

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