Suggestion Box: Perhaps Paleo Is the Way to Go

Norman Weiss, Weavers Way Purchasing Manager

Greetings and thanks for writing. As usual, suggestions and responses may have been edited for brevity, clarity, and/or comedy. In addition, no idea, concept, issue, remark, phrase, description of event, word, or word string should be taken seriously. This also applies to the previous sentence.

Recently, I was approached by a company selling paleo diet items for Weavers Way to consider. I got to wondering about the paleo diet, which is based on what humans ate in the paleolithic period. From the Mayo Clinic website: “The aim of a paleo diet is to return to a way of eating that’s more like what early humans ate. The diet’s reasoning is that the human body is genetically mismatched to the modern diet that emerged with farming practices. Farming changed what people ate and established dairy, grains and legumes as additional staples in the human diet. This relatively late and rapid change in diet outpaced the body’s ability to adapt. This mismatch is believed to be a contributing factor to the prevalence of obesity, diabetes and heart disease today.”

I got to wondering about this theory and thought why stop with food? What about other paleo era lifestyles; would they be healthier, too? Paleo transportation — walking, maybe an occasional raft — would certainly be healthier for people and the planet. Paleo communication: grunts and gestures, cave painting, eventually some language. No texting, as texting via tablet was time consuming. (I wonder how people argued without much language). Paleo medicine: medicinal herbs, clay, Shamans, and magic. No Obamacare arguments, no managed care. Paleo money: Trade the fish you caught for a basket of berries — no currency manipulation or ATM cards. Paleo technology: tools made of stone, wood, and bone, mastery of fire. No patents to file, no app store. Paleo politics: Could paleos vote? How did they communicate the issues? Probably more of a “might makes right” system.

In the United States, one of the main suppliers of paleo and other “natural” and organic foods to us and most stores is a large company known as UNFI, now worth $21 billion. (Funny to think we were an important early account of one of UNFI’s ancestors, Earthly Organics).

UNFI now claims to nationally distribute 250,000 products.

Since paleo era food was mostly a hunter-gatherer type operation, and the number of foods available was probably not in the thousands, maybe the paleo food system was the part of the paleo diet that was the healthy part. It had so many attributes we look for now — all natural and organic, no packaging, all local, sustainably produced, unprocessed, no marketing or ridiculous claims, no giant companies dominating the landscape. Maybe there’s something to be said for paleo food.

suggestions and responses:

s: “Can we get avocado milk?”

r: (Norman) Not yet. Avocado milk was just recently invented, and none of our distributors have picked it up yet. What’s next, lemon milk? Since when is food “invented”?

s: “Bird friendly coffee?”

r: (Norman) Thanks for your concern. We do have a few certified shade-grown packaged and bulk coffees in our stores — Golden Valley Farms, Brewing Good’s Take Flight, Equal Exchange Bird of Paradise and Backyard Beans’ Punch In The Face. Ask a Bulk staffer to show you where they’re located. In addition, our info is that most Fair Trade coffee is also shade grown:, and Hope this helps!

s: “Can we get pretzels in bulk?”

r: (Norman) Good question; we’ll ask Uncle Jerry.

s: “So glad to see Thai Tuna Salad back.”

r: (Norman) Yep, it was brought back by Bonnie Shuman, our executive chef.

s: “Sympathy cards are usually tacky, but the ones at Across The Way are really nice. Thanks!

r: (Norman) Nice to hear. Thanks for the feedback.

s: “What’s with the compostable produce bags? Do they really compost?”

r: (Norman) Maybe. They are made from material that comes from plant substances such as non-GMO modified corn starch, cellulose, vegetable oils, etc.. They’re trademarked as MATER-BI, and claim to be biodegradable and compostable. This is the first bioplastic bag we’ve seen that claims to compost in a home compost pile (as opposed to a commercial composter). We haven’t heard how successful this is yet and may have to wait for warmer weather to find out. We encourage shoppers to bring their own bags, but if you need a bag, these are supposedly the most environmentally friendly ones in the market right now.

s: Can I compost my old laptop at our farm’s compost operation?

r: (Norman) No, but if you wait a few eons your laptop will be naturally recycled when the Earth is absorbed by the sun in about 7.5 billion years.

s: “I would like the Prep Foods department to use a healthier mayo than Hellman’s. They use mayo in a lot of dishes, and it would be great if it was a healthier, chemical-free version.”

r: (Norman) Passing this on to our culinary staff. I’ll publish their response.

s: “Better soups that are gluten-free, vegan, and have some paleo options. Same for quick sandwiches.”

r: (Norman) Passing this on to Bonnie, our executive chef.

s: “In a recent Shuttle, you claimed 40% of a roasted turkey was edible, usable meat, while the rest was inedible skin and bones that create a waste problem. (I know that that writer warns that his musings are not to be taken seriously, but there has to be a baseline for facts & statistics). If there is anyone, anyone on staff or on the board who wants to make a $100 bet defending these outrageous claims, I will be more than happy to purchase a turkey at a reasonably priced grocery store (Acme, Fresh Grocer, Shop Rite) and bake it at the Chestnut Hill Weavers Way, have your butchers separate meat from bones and weigh the results on your certified scales. Please step up and put your money where your mouth is — or reconsider spreading such fake news and fake statistics in this day and age. Will wager 100-$150.”

r: (Norman) Wow, such passion for accuracy! In that spirit, here is what I wrote in the December 2019 Shuttle: “Assuming 40% of a whole bird is edible, that’s about 6,800 pounds of turkey meat being eaten by Weavers Way households this week.” Note the words “assuming” and “whole bird.” In general, my practice when writing about things that are quantifiable is to do a few internet searches to see what’s out there data-wise. Depending on the topic and source, and what our editor thinks, I may or may not cite the source of data. After all, this is writing for an organization’s newsletter column, not a scientific journal (which I also write for, but that’s another story).

While I don’t remember where I saw the 40% cited, it seemed a common enough number to cite (I think I saw ranges of 30%-50%), and, just in case it wasn’t, I qualified it with the word “assuming.” Also, the test you proposed does not include parts of a whole bird that are not eaten by people before it’s packaged for consumers — the head, feet, organs, etc. We also don’t know how much turkey is wasted after it’s cooked and never eaten, discarded in people’s homes and restaurants.

Part of the point of this column is giving readers a glimpse into the food system from the position I occupy. I get to see parts of the food system starting with where food is created to where it ends up, and many of the steps in between. Food waste is a major issue these days, and it seems fitting for a staffer of a food co-op to call attention to it.

s: “The Co-op sells metal enviro containers at Next Door and Across The Way. In Chestnut Hill, these containers could also be featured for sale on top of the Prepared Foods counter and hot bar. Furthermore, there could be an additional discount on prepared foods to members who bring their own container for the purchase of prepared foods.”

r: (Norman) Good point; we can look into this. In addition, we are looking into a reusable container system for some of our pre-packaged items like chicken salad. FYI, it is against the local health department food safety code for a consumer to bring their own container and fill it from a salad or hot bar due to risk of contamination and foodborne illness (this is not true for bulk department items). Containers must first go through one of our dishwashers before being made available for re-filling, so we’ve been working on such a process. Hopefully, we’ll be ready to launch that in April.

s: “Why not a Co-op dating site? Lots of singles out there looking for boyfriends and/or girlfriends.”

r: (Norman) All three of our stores are dating “sites;” lots of singles to see. What’s unique about Weavers Way sites for dating is that, with a mere glance, you can see what people are eating, which is the best measure of potential compatibility. No registration, no fees, and no pics to upload or scroll through.