Sustainable Food Makers Are Worried About the Future of Whole Foods Under Amazon

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At the Straus Family Farm, next to Tomales Bay north of San Francisco, the feed truck that delivers food to nearly 300 dairy cows now runs on electricity generated from cow poop.

That cow poop–normally a source of pollution at a typical dairy, and one of the reasons for the high carbon footprint of an average glass of milk or hunk of cheese–goes in a digester that also generates power for the rest of the dairy. The cattle graze in rotation, helping grasslands store more carbon. Workers are paid well above minimum wage and get free housing. When the nearby Straus Family Creamery delivers the resulting organic milk (also sourced from eight other local farms), it comes in glass bottles that customers can return for reuse.

All of this is part of the farm’s path to responsible production, including a goal to absorb more carbon dioxide than it produces, or be “carbon positive.” It’s the kind of story that customers want to hear. But it also costs more than running a factory farm, where manure-filled lagoons can pollute both local drinking water and the air, worker exploitation and even deaths are common, and where cows might never leave a barn. And it’s the type of system that Straus and other smaller farmers think might become harder to maintain if Amazon succeeds in its attempt to acquire Whole Foods.

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