Charlottesville area folks were able to get Polyface eggs at the Charlottesville Whole Foods for about three months in late 2007. That is no longer the case, and the following email to that store helps explain why.

Jan 12, 2008

Hi Mark – As intimated to you on the phone a couple of weeks ago, what follows is our official dead-in-the-water assessment with Whole Foods.

As you know, we sold eggs to Whole Foods for 3 months and it was fraught with problems from the beginning. We could never get a solid contact who would take responsibility for weekly orders, so each week’s call involved much time and frustration trying to get to a person who had the authority and knowledge to make an order. In addition, immediately Whole Foods complained about our packaging, that it was not glitzy enough and wanted customized cartons with bar codes, etc. on them.

These problems do not in and of themselves break deals, but the in-house spirit came through in all these issues as “We’re Whole Foods and we know best and you’re just a farmer.”

After the meat and poultry acquisition team visited and old us our poultry would not be acceptable without gassing, we knew we were on different planets. The humane certification program views gassing as inhumane, and so do we. Yet Whole Foods refuses to accept chickens that haven’t been gassed—even though it is an inexact science and results in fluctuating kill experiences.

The in-store brouhaha accusing Polyface of not measuring up to Whole Foods standards was, of course, symptomatic of all the above problems, and was never rectified to our satisfaction and was never publicly retracted.

Throughout our negotiations with Whole Foods, we have been struck with a bureaucratic and condescending attitude. Perhaps in a spirit of full disclosure we should point out that at this same time we were developing a relationship with Chipotle Mexican Grill, a national fast food restaurant chain. We have had similar hurdles with them, but the spirit is completely can-do and non-bureaucratic. Like any huge company, bureaucracy does exist, but from a vendor’s standpoint, the differences were obvious and enormous. At Chipotle, personnel emotionally and economically wrapped their arms around us in a can-do, punch-through spirit whenever we encountered a problem. It was was so positive that we never doubted our ability to cross seemingly insurmountable hurdles.

At Whole Foods we felt like nobody was really pulling for us—but you. The fact that our federally inspected slaughterhouse located near our farm and the Whole Foods store needed another tier of regulations that we had to pay for is simply ridiculous. Whole Foods should be breaking down regulations, not creating new ones. Demanding we certify that not one single beef or pork carcass could accidentally bump someone else’s in the chill room is both impossible to do and unimportant anyway. Is it really better to get if from New Zealand with all the paperwork filled out, or from the backyard where store managers can pop in and check things out? We realized we were being asked to certify the impossible, as if filling out certification sheets made something true.

As we looked into the future to the spirit and reality of adding other pastured products to the eggs, we realized that it was too ungratifying to do. In the big picture, our philosophies were just too different. We couldn’t dance.

We have not arrived at this decision quickly, and assure you that we had nothing but hope when our first dozen eggs arrived at the store. But we have dabbled and found this marketing venue hostile to many of our values. Because of this, we regret to inform you that we will no longer invest time and effort in doing business with Whole Foods. If Whole Foods wants our products, it can come on the same terms as the 2,000 families, 35 restaurants, and 10 retail venues that currently enjoy our relationship.

Sincerely,

Joe Salatin, President

Polyface, Inc.