My letter to Wegmans

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Hello.

I’ve been a customer of the Dulles, VA Wegmans store for several years now. I enjoy the selection of foods that you offer, particularly with regards to produce and specialty convenience foods. I’ve spread the word about Wegmans and have turned a number of people onto the store and they’ve become loyal customers as well.

However, last year, when Compassionate Consumers released their video shot inside your egg farm, I was disheartened. I wasn’t necessarily surprised at what I saw, since these types of atrocities happen every day at factory farms around the world. Rather, I was disheartened and embarrassed by your public response to the footage. Rather than acknowledge there was a problem, you used crafty language to insinuate (with absolutely no evidence) that some of the footage wasn’t shot at your facility. Then you mentioned the concern about the health risk when it’s been shown that factory farmed chicken and eggs are the reason that avian flu has spread so quickly in the first place.

That said, I continued to shop at your store, thinking that you’d come around and would work to make changes like Trader Joe’s and other similar companies. (You may say that you’re “full-service supermarket, not a specialty food store,” but come on… regular supermarkets don’t develop cult followings.)

But with the most recent news of Adam Durand’s sentencing, I can no longer spend money at your store in good conscience. Adam admitted to the misdemeanor he was charged with, but despite the fact he had no previous record, the judge saw fit to comply with your request for a jail sentence. A jail sentence. For a guy who helped sick and dying birds that your egg farm wouldn’t.

I spent a couple hundred dollars a month at Wegmans purchasing produce, vegan convenience foods, and pet supplies. Because of your reaction to the Compassionate Consumers’ movie and your pushing for a jail sentence of Adam Durand, I’m hereby boycotting your store. The money I would have spent at your store will instead go to smaller, local health food stores and to Adam Durand’s defense fund. I’ve also taken time to spread the word on vegblog.org and will be posting a copy of this letter there, as well.

I hope that you reconsider your stance and work to make a change. You have it within your power to do so. You’re recognized as a great place to work for your human employees. Why not try and make it a little less painful for your non-human employees as well?

… Ryan A. MacMichael
Virginia

15 Responses to “My letter to Wegmans”

  1. K

    Nicely done.

    Thank you for speaking out!

  2. AH

    amazing, well crafted, thoughtful and thought provoking letter! we can only hope they read and listen and act!

  3. Carrie

    Although I live in Canada, I do travel to the US a few times a year to grocery shop for vegetarian and vegan items that aren’t available to me at home. Wegman’s in Niagara Falls was one of my stops because they had a very good selection and seemed to be reasonably priced. I did hear about their egg farm and I’m not going to be shopping there on my next trip; I’m boycotting as well.
    I’m curious; did you get a response to your letter?

  4. Carrie

    I typed in my wrong URL. See how angry these animal abusing people make me?

  5. Ryan

    No response yet, as I just sent it last evening. I’ll post any response I get here when it comes in.

  6. Summer

    That’s a wonderful letter, Ryan. Very well said, from the heart, directed at the bottom line. Kudos.

  7. Gary

    Excellent and – I would hope – impactful letter, Ryan, followed by “walk your talk” action. May many others follow your lead.

  8. Janet

    Maybe it is true, but is it possible that the story about Wegmans treatment of their birds was sensationalized by a well meaning but misdirected zealot whose main goal was to support his own point of view even if he has to bend the truth to do that?

    People are quick to believe shocking stories of abuse because that is what they want to believe yet many of these people have never set foot on a real farm. I think many people would be pleasantly shocked at the good things they see on most farms.They might also be surprised to learn that free range or organic doesnt always mean better or healthier. A scientist studying pandemics at the Cornell Medical Center in NYC recently told me that the free range chickens that many organic minded folks think are healthier may in fact be more prone to spreading Avian Flu because the free range birds are exposed to wild birds. So perhaps confinement is actually the kinder thing to do!

    I have spent my entire career involved in production agriculture. I worked at a research farm run by a large farm cooperative for many years. At a company training session several years ago, I met a woman from our company’s insurance division. She was horrified to learn that I worked at the research farm because “that was where they tortured cows and ripped out their vocal chords so they couldn’t scream”. Those were her exact words. In all my years working there, I have never seen anything other than healthy, well fed and cared for cows who had excellent health care and well balanced diets. They also had intact vocal chords! Only once in 26 years did I see a dead calf….one of a set of twins born over night in the clean and comfy nursery. But after all, it was a farm and sometimes calves do die!

    The insurance lady never took me up on my invitation to visit the research farm so she could see for herself how well treated the animals were. I guess she preferred her own reality of tortured animals. And yes, she had a “Save the Whales” bumper sticker on her car and a few other environmental bumper stickers as well. Bottom line……….don’t always believe everything the PETA and Farm Sanctuary People tell you. They may mean well and there may be some element of truth to some of their stories but it is just as likely that much of it is embellished or sensationalized or used out of context to support their point of view.

    Yes there are farmers who do a better job than others but the vast majority of them treat their animals very well. You don’t stay in the poultry business or any type of livestock business for very long if you mistreat your animals. Sure, farmers may feed them highly nutritious diets that make them grow faster than they would under natural conditions where animals may need to work a bit harder to find their food and they may give them medicine when they are sick. Heck, we do that for our own children! Why wouldn’t we do the same for our livestock?

    Most people are so far removed from agriculture that they simply don’t understand what it takes to produce the food they eat. The simple fact is that we may have to confine animals to produce an economical finished product. We have to kill poultry and other livestock in order to eat them. It isn’t pleasant but it is necessary. Should we treat animals as humanely as possible ……by all means………..but we have to balance that with the need to provide food that is nutritious, abundant and CHEAP enough for even the poorest among us to afford! Oh……..and the farmer needs to make a bit of profit too!

    It would be nice if we could go back to production methods used in the early 20th century but the simple fact is that there are too many people, it would take too many acres to produce everything organically and it would make food too costly, especially for low income families. Organic farming practices may work for some farms but it may not work everywhere. In some situations, organic production methods may actually require more acreage, more seed and more fuel to run equipment (if you use cultivation in place of herbicides for example). It may require more labor & management and it may actually increase potential soil erosion if more acres are needed to produce enough food, etc.

    So………..dream on and shop at your vegan stores but I am not sure that will serve your high horse any better than shopping at Wegmans.

    I am guessing that there are a few unscrupulous “so called” organic growers out there who are cheating the system just so they can get the premium prices that certified organic products bring. Who wouldn’t want to get $28 per hundredweight of organic milk vs $11 per hundredweight for conventional milk? So what if they cheat just this once or twice? Who will know?

    So, are you sure you are always getting what you pay extra for? That would be a more interesting story if you ask me. How about if one of us non-vegans go under cover on a few certified organic farms to see what we can see? Most of them are probably just hard working, honest farmers. But I bet it wouldn’t take us long to “expose” a few who are cheating the system and using non-approved chemicals or fertilizers once in a while. We probably wouldnt even have to plant any phony evidence! A seed salesman once told me about one of his customers who was hauled off to jail in handcuffs because he had used pesticides on his “Certified Organic” soybeans. He got caught but I am willing to bet there are others who haven’t been caught……yet!

    As far as I am concerned………….I will continue to shop at Wegmans. And I will eat both “conventional” and “organic” foods depending on the quality and price of the item. Believe it or not, once in a while the organic stuff is cheaper. Usually it is not. Sometimes the organic stuff looks nicer……….sometimes it doesn’t.

    Keep up the good work Wegmans!

  9. dirty gardener

    Chickens are not “product”. children are not food, and should not be compared to livestock. I think you miss the entire point of Ryan’s boycott of wegman’s.

  10. Danielle

    Janet states that we have to kill animals to eat them, but we certainly dono’t have to eat them or their byproducts.

  11. Bill

    Excellent post Janet. What a novle concept…to maintaint objectivity and to call on THOUSANDS of years of science and naturalistic life. Just because you are a vegan does not mean that everyone needs to stop eating meat. There are many serious issues with free range chickens that people dont want to grasp. Apparantly its perfectly justified for a fox to eat a chicken but not for a human. It is not cruel to participate in the food chain. And as far as the “unfair” sentencing of Mr. Durand goes. He broke the law and in an unscrupulous manner. he blatantly trespassed on someones property and then flaunted that fact for the whole world to see. He calls himself an “investigator” but for what law keeping organization does he work? Adam had an agenda and if he is truly behind his cause he will take the consequences that his work brings him.

  12. ryan

    Bill — There’s a difference between foxes and humans: we have the ability to make a conscious choice not to participate unnecessarily in the suffering of other animals simply to satisfy our palate. And as I’ve said before, the “food chain” argument is lame.

  13. Rick

    8th comment, to quote Janet: “The simple fact is that we may have to confine animals to produce an economical finished product. We have to kill poultry and other livestock in order to eat them. It isn’t pleasant but it is necessary. ”

    I used to be a huge carnivore. I was even one of the a** holes that would speak out against someone who said they were veg. These days I don’t eat meat/fish and don’t consume milk (cheese, yogurt etc..) or eggs in any of their most basic variations. Coming from where I was to where I am now; to the veg’s I’d like to say I’m sorry. I was an asshole but I’m on your side now and I’m trying hard and it’s nice to know you forgive me. To the carns all I can say is you’re fools and I say that with the utmost sincerity, I was once one of you.

    Eating meat is cruel, environmentally destructive and 100% pointless. It’s easy to become a veg. The first hurdle is breaking your mind of the mold it’s been raised in. It can be a difficult thing to do when you know whole heartily that ‘milk does a body good’ and that protein can only be found in meat. These statements are of course completely wrong and part of the initial hurdle one must overcome. Of course it’s relatively easy once you realize it’s marketing hype.

    Plainly said, Animals are just a middle men. They eat Rye and then you eat them, so why not just eat Rye to begin with? Don’t worry, I can already hear your thoughts, they’re the same ones I hear a lot from others and I’ve never been wrong in my arguments so if you’d like to talk about vitamins or minerals or protein that you think you need from meat please educate yourself first before posting here and revealing your foolishness again.

    And Janet, your right cruelty to Animals isn’t pleasant, but it isn’t necessary. Not one bit.

  14. Dan

    I LIKE EATING MEAT. I like chicken, fish, red meat, etc.

    And I support humanitarianism when it comes to the meat industry. The food chain is natural; that’s how the world has worked for millions of year. What ISN’T natural is the torture that animals are artificially placed in when they are farmed by humans.

    Here’s the distinction I make; if the animal lived a healthy, happy, normal life before I consumed its products or its flesh, then its okay. Also, the slaughter must be quick and respectful. If not, then its wrong.

    I may be among the few who share this distinction, but that’s how I feel.

  15. ryan

    You’re not among the few, sadly, you’re among the many.

    This whole idea of a “respectful slaughter” is just insane to me. Respecting an animal’s life is simple: don’t kill the animal when you don’t need his flesh to live.

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