Letters to the editor
Sound Consumer March 2020
Letters must be 250 words or less and include a name and hometown. Submission of letter grants automatic approval of publication to PCC, including name and hometown, in print and online. Submission does not guarantee publication. PCC reserves the right to edit content of submissions. Please email letters to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hello! I’ve been a shopper at your stores for years. I love the switch to biodegradable containers in the deli. I’m curious if any other packaging in the store can also be put in commercial composting? What about the packing from Stahlbush Farms? Also, what is PCC doing, if anything, to push food producers to use biodegradable packaging?
— Nicole L.
PCC replies: Thank you for feedback on our new compostable containers and for your years of shopping at PCC. A great deal of our deli packaging can be placed in commercial composting bins, from our wooden coffee stirring sticks to our pizza boxes. We have a packaging guide online here detailing whether items should be composted, recycled or put in the trash.
Packaged goods that are not produced by PCC will often (but not always) note on the box or wrapping if they are recyclable or compostable. Unfortunately, the packaging from Stahlbush Farms is not compostable, though the company is actively searching for a compostable option that will also preserve the quality of its products. Alter Eco, a producer recently spotlighted in Sound Consumer, has been an industry pioneer in the challenging task of manufacturing non-GMO compostable packaging.
PCC continues to encourage our vendors to transition to more sustainable packaging. We believe our commitment to purchasing such products will help bring needed new options to the marketplace.
THE TRUE COST OF EGGS
I was encouraged by the headline of the article, “The true cost of eggs,” (November-December Sound Consumer), but disappointed the story failed to mention the egg industry’s other true, yet mostly hidden, cost: the culling of the industry’s common byproduct, day-old male chicks, by suffocation, maceration or other methods. The focus of the article on animal welfare for hens is commendable, and a step in the right direction for consumers looking to buy humane products, but neglecting to mention this causal aspect of the business—hens lay both male and female eggs, and while the females are useful as future hens, for various reasons, the males are considered useless—is misleading and doesn’t provide PCC customers and readers with the whole story regarding the treatment of farmed chickens, free-range, factory-farmed or otherwise.
— Gwendolyn Elliott Woodruff, Seattle
PCC replies: Thank you for your insights and for highlighting another facet of the animal welfare issues that surround eggs and, to some degree, other animal products. The culling of male chicks is a significant industry issue. Research has been underway for some time on technology that could identify male chicks while still in the egg, and one version of this is now being tested in Germany. While this model raises new issues of its own, we would expect to hear more about it in the U.S. as the technology advances.
PERSONALIZED MEMBER BENEFITS
I’ve been following the dialogue about updating member benefits to better reflect current shopping trends. As vegan PCC members (and avid shoppers) my partner and I have enjoyed receiving your seasonal fliers, but do not benefit from all of the deals due to our dietary needs. Would PCC consider allowing members to opt-in to submit data about their dietary restrictions to better tailor these benefits to individuals or households?
— Andrew, Seattle
PCC replies: Thank you for your feedback and bringing up this issue. Our member benefits team will be exploring this possibility.
HOT BAR PRICES
I would like to find out why the hot bar is so expensive. Boiled rice is $3.50/lb. I might as well pick up a frozen burrito. Most other hot bars are the same, (with most items) priced around $8.99/lb or $9.99/lb, but it seems counter to PCC to be competing with other grocery stores’ prices. My understanding is that PCC functions independently. They look at real costs versus what the market is charging. I believe the hot bar is artificially high.
We are in a crisis with many people living on the street and access to prepared food is harder. There are people living on a fixed income who don’t have access to a kitchen and being able to buy good organic food is important.
I feel that a lot of people are asking the same question. We are relying on PCC to keep the prices fair. I will look in the Sound Consumer for an answer and will go to a member meeting.
PCC replies: PCC is one of the only grocers in Seattle where chefs prepare more than 300 dishes from scratch on site each day from original recipes. Each of these items is made from the same fresh, local and organic ingredients you find in our stores. Our approach is very different, and much more costly, than what other stores charging the same price do. As such, we feel that the price of the hot bar is fair given the high quality and craftsmanship that goes into filling it each day.
With regard to pricing, our team is very thoughtful about how we set prices across the store. The PCC management team consistently searches for ways to make a meaningful impact for members and shoppers—like the introduction in 2015 of Field Day, our line of low-priced, organic pantry staples like canned beans, peanut butter and pasta. The team also regularly reviews the prices of “commodity” items, like cheddar cheese, organic milk and bananas to keep them as affordable as possible.
The price of each item is a complex equation that includes offering our 1,600 PCC staff fair wages and generous benefits, paying the small and mid-sized producers we prioritize a fair price for their goods, and returning a portion of our profits to our members and the community. Within our deli, an added element is the labor that is required to prepare food from scratch each day.
We do recognize that there is a growing need for food security. We participate in grocery rescue programs and donate to food banks in each of the communities we serve to help address this issue. Our social and environmental responsibility team works closely with each community to best understand the root issues and find creative ways to help. It is a work in progress, and, just as we’ve found innovative ways to meet our environmental commitments, we strive to find better ways to meet our communities’ growing needs.
GLYPHOSATE USE AND ORGANICS
I just became aware that Roundup (the herbicide glyphosate) is now allowed in organic hydroponic foods and that berries are especially affected. I’m sure you already know about this, but perhaps there should be an article in Sound Consumer about it?
— Lynn Colwell
PCC replies: Thank you for asking about glyphosate use and organic production. First, let me put your mind at ease by emphasizing that glyphosate—along with the majority of synthetic chemicals—remains prohibited in organic production.
Last spring the organic community heard rumors of potential berry producers (mainly blueberries from Florida) using container systems that had been allowed to transition to organic within a shorter timeframe and had also been allowed to use the prohibited substance glyphosate on surrounding areas prior to placing the containers.
The response from the organic community, including PCC, upon learning this information was a swift and unified demand to the National Organic Program (NOP) to either (1) ensure that these rumors were untrue or (2) issue an immediate clarification that all producers must go through a three-year transition and that prohibited substances were, indeed, prohibited. While the NOP did not immediately provide an adequate response, shortly after the spring 2019 National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) meeting in Seattle, the NOP did issue the clarification demanded. We wrote about this in our policy report in the September Sound Consumer.
Thank you for sharing your concern and placing your trust in our efforts to maintain organic integrity!
I read in the recent Sound Consumer under “Working to reduce our carbon footprint” that you bought methane offsets.
From whom? Can individuals do this?
— Catherine Kettrick
PCC replies: Individuals can certainly purchase carbon offsets, too! We recommend visiting Green-e’s webpage (green-e.org/certified-resources/carbon-offsets) listing companies offering certified carbon offsets for purchase. Green-e is North America’s most stringent third-party certifier for renewable energy and carbon offset products. PCC purchased its carbon offsets through 3Degrees. Some of these listed companies, such as Terrapass, offer an online calculator to help you calculate your carbon footprint. You may find this helpful.
Thank you again for reaching out to us and we wish you luck in finding the right carbon offset program!