Walmart versus Whole foods: Does Walmart win?

Walmart is going organic and locavore in its produce section. Corby Kummer comes to terms with his disbelief (and does blind taste tests of Whole Foods versus Walmart) in an Atlantic article.

I started looking into how and why Walmart could be plausibly competing with Whole Foods, and found that its produce-buying had evolved beyond organics, to a virtually unknown program—one that could do more to encourage small and medium-size American farms than any number of well-meaning nonprofits, or the U.S. Department of Agriculture, with its new Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food campaign. Not even Fishman, who has been closely tracking Walmart’s sustainability efforts, had heard of it. “They do a lot of good things they don’t talk about,” he offered.

The program, which Walmart calls Heritage Agriculture, will encourage farms within a day’s drive of one of its warehouses to grow crops that now take days to arrive in trucks from states like Florida and California. In many cases the crops once flourished in the places where Walmart is encouraging their revival, but vanished because of Big Agriculture competition.

My wife and I have an ongoing Walmart debate. Point to Blattman?

9 thoughts on “Walmart versus Whole foods: Does Walmart win?

  1. Hello,
    what is so great about locally produced stuff? – Often, a small truck doing a “day’s drive” may produce more CO2 than a big supply going coast to coast or even around the world.
    Cheers, Tobias

  2. supporting the local economy, supporting local farmers. Perhaps local farms in your region don’t have a comparative advantage versus bananas from Honduras. Perhaps these local farms don’t make sense in terms of land use for your metro. Or perhaps this is a great idea that will help people of all income levels get access to fresher healthier raw foods.

  3. I would also like to hear the answer to Tobias’ question. And all other things equal, I would very strongly prefer to support farmers in Honduras than farmers anywhere in America.

  4. What’s so great about locally produced stuff?

    The answer… actually there is no ‘the answer’, it is more nuanced than that. Here are a couple of benefits I can see straight up.

    1.The food is likely to be several days fresher. Fresh food is better nutrition.
    2. Shorter chain of accountability. The producer is more likely to be known to the folks who eat the stuff. There’s a good incentive to maintain quality.

    I’m sure others will raise other aspects…

  5. Well, one difference is that the “small truck” is probably good and kind. It is likely to stop on its way to the store to volunteer at a homeless shelter, or maybe to inspire some kid who’s down and out with by giving him a little mock punch on the chin and saying “Go get ’em, tiger! You can do it!”. By contrast, that “big supply” would probably run over an adorable puppy or other baby mammal without even stepping on the brakes in its hurry to make big profits.

  6. Following from what Gillian said, I have a preference for local foods for one reason and one reason only: taste. Locally-grown foods can get to stores faster, so they are likely to be fresher, and fresh food just tastes better. These days a lot of fruits and vegetables are specifically bred for long shelf-life and thicker skins (so they are less likely to be bruised in transit) at the expense of taste — it’s the difference between a tomato fresh off the vine in July versus a colorless-but-hardy one shipped in from South America in February. There are a lot of reasons to support farmers and producers in other countries, but when it comes to food, I want it as local and fresh as possible – and if Walmart is taking an initiative there, I might reconsider shopping there myself.