Letters to the Editor
This article was originally published in September 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 email@example.com.
I have been a PCC member for almost 30 years. With all of the problems involving meat production and COVID-19 hotspots in the nation’s slaughterhouses, I am wondering how those that our meat producers contract with fare? Is this something that PCC keeps track of? Also, do these animals have to travel great distances in order to reach the slaughterhouses? I think we need to look at the totality of our food production chain in order to make ethical choices regarding the business of raising animals for food.
— Cara B, Seattle, WA
PCC replies: Thank you for sharing your concerns about meat production and COVID-19 risks. PCC is extremely fortunate to work with smaller, independent producers who have proven to be more resilient during the pandemic. Our meat & seafood merchandiser has been in close contact with our suppliers and they seem to be faring well compared to large consolidated corporate processing plants.
We are continuing to reach out to our vendors to receive updates on both public safety protocols and supply. Many vendors have let us know they are prioritizing the health and safety of their employees and thus operating at lower production than normal. Beeler’s, one of our pork suppliers, closed for two days to sanitize their facility and they’ve altered production to reduce transmission. Mary’s Chicken, our PCC private label chicken supplier, told us that they have trained nurses and COVID-19 test kits on-site for employees and they’re disinfecting the whole plant every day. Overall, we have seen few disturbances in supply from these smaller-scale producers and believe this demonstrates yet another benefit to sourcing from independent and more local producers who value not only environmental impacts but animal and human welfare as well.
As a part of that animal welfare attentiveness, the producers we work with try to limit the transport time to slaughter, ranging from a few minutes down the road to a 6-8-hour drive. We have one vendor that allows longer distances up to 14 hours, but most trips are under 10 hours and they require animals to be housed at an intermediate facility once travel time goes over a day, so they have a break from being on the trucks.
We appreciate and agree that the entire production chain must be taken into account when looking at how to improve the system as a whole—it has been a priority for PCC since our beginning and continues to be. COVID-19 has highlighted pre-existing problems with corporate consolidation in the meat industry and we hope that spotlight might encourage better practices even for companies that PCC doesn’t carry.
Thank you again for your questions and taking the time to let us know what you care about.
I’m a PCC member for 30 years and live in West Seattle.
I’m shocked to see that PCC is not on Green America’s map for climate-friendly supermarkets (Climate-Friendly Supermarkets)! Is PCC leaking super-pollutants that threaten our climate? As the organization warns, “These pollutants are gases called HFCs used in refrigeration—with up to 9,000 times the warming power of CO2.”
PCC replies: Thank you for taking the time to reach out to us regarding refrigerants and their environmental impact. PCC is a proud member of EPA’s GreenChill Partnership and has been long committed to reducing our carbon footprint through industry-leading sustainable refrigeration initiatives.
In 2018, we pledged to cut our refrigerant carbon emissions in half by 2022. Our new Ballard and West Seattle stores utilize carbon dioxide, a natural refrigerant that is thousands of times less polluting than commonly used synthetic refrigerants, like HFCs. We plan to utilize carbon dioxide and other low-impact refrigerants in our future stores.
We also partnered with one of the nation’s leading refrigeration experts to develop a sustainable refrigeration management plan that includes strategies to minimize leaks and transition to lower-impact refrigerants. We are using this plan to improve maintenance procedures for our stores’ cooling equipment and develop a roadmap to retrofit existing stores with more climate-friendly refrigeration systems.
Lastly, thank you for sharing this Climate-Friendly Supermarkets map with us. We will definitely reach out to Green America and see if PCC is a good fit for their map and campaign!
We are grateful for sustainability-minded members like you, who continually encourage us to reduce our carbon footprint!
Sound Consumer mailings
I can’t tell you how disappointed I am in your decision to stop mailing the Sound Consumer. I waited to write, but a recent visit to the Redmond store reminded me again. As a longtime member (35 years?), I don’t shop at PCC much these days. I can’t afford it. Because the old Whole Foods/Whole Paycheck “joke” is the same for PCC—prices are exorbitant compared to local markets. I buy organic, and frequent farmers markets, but cannot afford PCC prices for my weekly shopping.
I continue to support PCC for a number of reasons, but recent changes have me questioning this support. And now I no longer even get updates in the mail, which is vital to keeping up with what PCC is doing. I spend far too much time in front of a computer already, so reading online isn’t something I like to do. Receiving the newspaper in the mail was an enjoyable way to find out what was new and to feel connected to the store and people who feel as I do about our food supply. First it was moving to a bimonthly print, now I don’t even receive a copy at all unless I remember to grab a copy when I make a visit to a store. Yet how much did last year’s rebranding cost us? How much are you (we) donating to causes? Maybe instead of donating to food banks we could make shopping at PCC more affordable? And I apologize if I missed it, but how about giving folks an option if they’d like to receive a hard copy in the mail? But I suppose a member like me, who is unable to shop there regularly isn’t a priority, and certainly not “worth” the mailing cost.
PCC responds: First, thank you for writing, for your longtime support, and for valuing the Sound Consumer. We want all members to connect with the paper the way you have, regardless of how often they visit PCC stores.
We made the difficult decision to stop mailing the paper for the remainder of 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. This was largely a financial decision—printing and mailing the paper to 70,000+ members was becoming prohibitively expensive. Similar pressures have wreaked havoc in recent years with newspapers and other print publications across the country. It’s also true, though, that many people are choosing to read periodicals of all kinds online, and that online articles are more timely as well as more economical to produce. We are sending out a monthly member email with Sound Consumer highlights, but also continuing to provide printed copies in the stores. This seemed a middle ground that would let readers access hard copies of the paper if they wished. We will continue to assess member responses while planning Sound Consumer’s schedule for 2021—both decisions about mailing and questions about whether to increase the publication schedule. Thank you for the idea of a subscription option—if enough members are interested we will review that as well.
Prices are a major ongoing concern for us as well. You have probably read many discussions (e.g., this letter from last year) about ways we try to make sure PCC’s prices are as fair and affordable as possible. To greatly summarize those points, we constantly balance our ability to pay our own staff and our farmers and producers fairly while meeting our strict standards and other social and environmental responsibilities. Support for community organizations, is part of our mission as a co-op, as is returning a portion of profits to our members. Although PCC contributes to the food bank program, the majority of funding comes directly from generous shoppers, who donate online and at the register.
Again, we appreciate your thoughts as well as your membership.