On “Food Talk with Dani Nierenberg,” Fortune Senior Editor Beth Kowitt chats with A.C. Gallo, President and Chief Merchandising Officer of Whole Foods, about the transformation of organic now and in the future. “We need to figure out a way to go beyond organic. Organic is great in terms of growing safer food, but it doesn’t really take into account everything that might be going on in the environment around it,” says Gallo.
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As recently as the 1970s, there were no organic food labeling laws, says Gallo. But with the rapid expansion of organic food awareness in the 1980s and Whole Foods’ expansion in the 1990s, Gallo notes that many realized organic called for stronger standards in food production. Then in the last decade, “we started to become more concerned about not just the quality of our product and if it was it safe and healthy for people to eat, but we also started to become concerned about the things we were hearing about the way workers may or may not be being treated,” says Gallo.
“If the average person went and looked at some of these farms or went to the slaughterhouse… they might not be happy with some of the stuff they saw that was standard industry practice,” says Gallo. Whole Foods developed its Whole Trade program—which abides by Fair Trade and environmental standards—to ensure its products foster ethical and sustainable growing practices. “For example, we’re going to spend a lot of time and energy looking into regenerative agriculture and how we can add that aspect to… organic production,” says Gallo.
Recently purchased by Amazon, Whole Foods is staying committed to expanding their standards. They’re also aiming to increase their standards by monitoring regenerative agricultural practices, farm labor standards, and efforts to limit packaging.