Whole Foods Rolls Out Produce Ranking System Across U.S. and Canada

Thu. October 16th, 2014 - by Andrew McDaniel

AUSTIN, TX – Whole Foods has rolled out its new “good,” “better” or “best” produce ranking system based on supplier farming practices to nearly 400 stores in the U.S. and Canada.  AndNowUKnow previously covered the initial announcement of this program last year.

Matt Rogers, Global Produce Coordinator “After three years of research and planning, Responsibly Grown is the result of our collaboration with suppliers, scientists and issue experts to continue our strong commitment to organic, while embracing additional important topics and growing practices in agriculture today,” said Matt Rogers, Global Produce Coordinator at Whole Foods Market. “We are excited to broaden the conversation to recognize additional growing practices and drive more transparency in the industry.”

To receive a “good” ranking, the lowest of the three tiers, a farm must take 16 major steps to protect air, soil, water, and human health, according to a press release.  Growers must also comply with the Responsibly Grown pesticide policy, which restricts growers to using only U.S. Environmental Protection Agency registered pesticides, regardless of the country of origin.

The full list of prohibited and restricted pesticides can be found on the Responsibly Grown website.

Now how will this affect growers and suppliers?  To be ranked, suppliers will have to submit compliance information online.  If that application is flagged for any reason, the company may be asked for additional documentation or on-site audits before ranking. 

According to a press release, a “better” rating indicates advanced performance and a “best” rating indicates exceptional, industry-leading performance in a scoring system covering multiple topics in each of these key categories:

  • Pest management (e.g. using beneficial insects to control pests)
  • Farmworker welfare (e.g. providing protective equipment for workers)
  • Water conservation and protection (e.g. using efficient irrigation techniques)
  • Enhancing soil health (e.g. adding compost to soil; planting cover crops)
  • Ecosystems and biodiversity (e.g. planting wildflowers to restore natural bee habitat for pollinator protection)
  • Waste reduction (e.g. recycling plastics used in the field)
  • Air, energy and climate (e.g. solar panels for renewable energy)

The ranking system will rate hundreds of products with key suppliers, which will be about 50% of its produce nationwide.

The Tennessean quotes Rogers as saying that this program shouldn’t result in higher prices for shoppers because they will feel better about what they’re buying. 

It will certainly be interesting to see how sales and profits trend for Whole Foods with the roll out of this ranking system, and what affect it will have on suppliers.  Stay tuned to AndNowUKnow for the latest updates.

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