This is a "tough love" blog post, because I've shopped a lot at LifeSource Natural Foods ever since it opened way back when. Three or four times a week I go there.
But changes LifeSource has been making cause me and my wife to be a bit less satisfied with the store.
I readily admit that those changes probably are profitable for LifeSource. However, they go against the grain of my longtime vegetarianism -- which began about 50 years ago while I was in college.
(Along with other students of a crazed Greek yoga teacher, we started the second health food store in San Jose, California in 1970.)
Basically, I think LifeSource is going overboard on the "natural" part of its name to the detriment of "health." Natural foods aren't always healthy. And some healthy foods aren't completely natural.
Here's some specifics of what concerns me about the direction LifeSource is going. Again, I'm speaking as someone who hasn't eaten a bite of meat or fish since 1968, and is pretty well informed about nutrition.
Deli offerings. In the early days of LifeSource, they almost always had tofu and brown rice in the deli/takeout section of the store. Now, macaroni and cheese (full-fat variety) is common, while tofu and rice have almost completely disappeared. When I asked about this a few months ago, I was told that many people nowadays believe they are allergic to tofu.
But I doubt that's the whole story.
Now I'm much less likely to get something from the deli/takeout section, even though I peruse it often. My suspicion is that LifeSource has learned what their customers are most willing to buy, even if that isn't the healthiest food to eat.
OK. The market has spoken. That's capitalism.
However, it leaves health-minded vegetarians like me and my wife without the choices that we used to enjoy. Even the walnut loaf that was common in the deli last year has been missing for quite a while. But chicken breasts are a daily feature, I'm pretty sure.
Which gets me to...
Meat has multiplied. In the early days, I believe LifeSource had nothing with meat in it. Then warning signs appeared: "contains meat." Eventually there was a small meat section. Now there's a really big meat section.
I understand that most people believe that meat can be part of a healthy diet. In small doses, I agree.
However, even if meat is "natural," that doesn't make it healthy. Or good for our planet. There's much evidence to support the contention that being a vegetarian or vegan is both healthy for people and for the environment.
Almost every story about global warming that I read in one of the science magazines I subscribe to says that raising animals for food is one of the most carbon-intensive things that humans do. Thus eliminating meat from one's diet is one of the best actions an individual can engage in to reduce carbon emissions -- along with not flying.
As the meat section at LifeSource has steadily enlarged, other areas of the store had to be reduced. Such as...
Alternatives to meat have dwindled. Back when I became a vegetarian, there were no meat substitutes like there are today. No veggie burgers. No flavored tofu or tempeh. You had to make your own vegetarian meals, being careful to find good sources of protein.
LifeSource used to have many varieties of tofu and tempeh. Now that section has dwindled considerably in size. I used to enjoy the teriyaki tempeh strips as an alternative to tofu, both of which are alternatives to meat. Now I'm pretty sure there is only unflavored tempeh at LifeSource.
And shockingly, today I went to get a package of "beefless ground beef" for the vegetarian tacos I'm about to make for dinner, but found that apparently LifeSource no longer carries this vegetarian staple. So I drove back to Trader Joe's, where I'd already shopped before going to LifeSource, in order to get some.
Other items are lacking. I suppose most people feel aggrieved when a store stops carrying a favorite item, wondering how the heck someone decided to discontinue this marvelous product. That feeling just has been happening more frequently with me at LifeSource.
As noted above, meat alternatives are becoming less common, while meat items are becoming more common.
The bread section seems smaller now, with fewer whole wheat varieties that we much prefer, though I could be wrong about this. Not a big deal, but today I also saw that one of our favorite jams, Oregon Growers strawberry rhubarb, was no longer on the shelf, with another brand seemingly replacing it.
And rather strangely, when I tried to custom order a case of Loma Linda Little Links from LifeSource, rather than getting it via Amazon, at first I was told that they don't carry anything from Loma Linda because it doesn't meet their standards.
I don't know what the offending ingredient in Little Links is: corn oil? hydrolyzed soy protein?
Regardless, I can guarantee that Little Links are considerably healthier than lots of items sold by LifeSource. But while my custom order was taken, I never got it, so I had to resort to getting my Little Links via Amazon.
I'll end by noting that LifeSource Natural Foods still is a big favorite of ours. It's a very pleasant place to shop, with friendly employees and a great selection of items.
Not as cheap as Fred Meyer and other stores that carry organic items (LifeSource's prices for organic raspberries are much higher than Fred Meyer, for example), but my wife and I are happy to pay a bit more to support Salem's premier locally owned natural food store.
And we appreciate the 10% senior discount.
We just wish LifeSource would tilt a bit back in the direction of "health." It's hard for me to believe that I'm the only LifeSource customer longing for tofu and brown rice to return regularly to the deli/takeout section. Doesn't have to be there all the time, of course.
But once in a while would be nice. (Note: my wife just told me that she bought tofu from the Deli section at lunchtime recently. I usually go to the store in the evening, and I don't recall seeing tofu available in the Deli for many months, if not years.)
I have only been vegan since January 1, 2018. However i used to occasionally go into Lifesource mainly for supplements but would also do some random shopping. So when i made this lifestyle choice i was shocked to walk in and see so much non vegan and non vegetarian food. This really surprises me because there are so many people moving the direction of meatless. Now i rarely go into Lifesource. I understand a company has to make a profit but the change almost feels like a betrayal of what i thought Lifesource represented.
Posted by: Paula | January 21, 2019 at 10:26 PM
While you think production of meat is bad for the planet, you don't seem as aware of what soybean production is doing to it by taking out forests in places like Brazil and Argentina and turning them into farms. I get how some don't like the idea of innocent animals being killed for food but as for whether it's unhealthy for the planet, you aren't doing much research about how bad soybeans are in the way they are used. https://www.smallfootprintfamily.com/why-soy-is-bad-for-you-and-the-planet.
And then there is an even more serious matter where it comes to bread, soybeans or anything that is currently harvested with Roundup and those crops include wheat, oats, soybeans, corn and a lot more. I thought I was gluten sensitive and had done what I could to cut it from my diet... then i began to read about how it was glyphosate in Roundup and the way wheat is harvested in this country. Our federal authorities assure it's safe for us as they only spray it on two weeks before harvest to make harvest faster. Well, maybe for some folks but once they had genetically modified plants that it wouldn't kill, farmers and the chemical companies were thrilled. More money. Well, if someone isn't sensitive to glyphosate, it still might be harming them in small ways they don't know. For me, it was big ways. I've gone from not thinking organic matters to knowing that for me it does. I can now eat the whole wheat bread that is organic... And another friend of mine says as soon as she eats something that isn't organic, her joints begin to hurt. It impacts us different ways.
So don't be so confident that your soybeans aren't damaging the planet for the numbers of them required when people don't use small amounts of meat to balance their diet. Worse, those soybeans, your tofu, just might be doing your body damage in ways you don't know-- all to profit Monsanto and their ilk. Go organic!
Posted by: Rain Trueax | January 22, 2019 at 05:16 AM
"And we appreciate the 10% senior discount. "
You should be ashamed of yourself.
Every time I see a young married couple with a child in their arms, I think, "THEY should get a discount, NOT old folks that are mostly rolling in the dough!"
Are you pinching a thin dime?
If I am ever offered a "senior discount" I will look around, spot a young couple just starting out and say, " Yes please. But please apply it to their bill!"
But then, that's just the way conservatives roll......
Posted by: Skyline | January 22, 2019 at 12:27 PM
Skyline, I don't feel bad about taking advantage of a senior discount. Many places do this, such as movie theaters. However, I get what you're saying about young people often having less money than seniors. And actually I didn't have a mention of the discount in my blog post until I read it to my wife and she mentioned this as another reason to shop at LifeSource, since the 10% discount lowers prices to a level that's closer to the prices at major stores that offer organic/natural foods.
Posted by: Brian Hines | January 22, 2019 at 12:38 PM
Skyline, i applaud your idea and I'll adopt it. Not sure it's just a conservative idea, though. I'm a generous liberal and I agree heartily. Thank you for the great idea.
LifeSource does have both tofu and tempeh on the salad bar daily (the tofu is organic, so it's never sprayed with glyphosate). Also, hydrolyzed soy protein soy has been genetically engineered to support direct spray of glyphosate and 2-4D, both known to be carcinogenic.
Posted by: Roxanne | January 22, 2019 at 05:59 PM
I really try to make a point of going out of my way to spend money at Lifesource. And that's saying a lot, considering I live 20 miles away, in Dallas. I love the store and have taken note of the changes. They still have a great selection of bulk foods (farro! dates!) and a wonderful seasonal produce section (purple sweet potatoes!!). They're also the only local place that sells Three Sisters Nixtamal tortillas, which are *real* corn tortillas made from corn sourced from small farms in Mexico. That level of commitment to local products is what keeps me going to Lifesource.
I've noticed the meat and junk food, but part of me wonders if the meat is in response to those awful keto and Paleo diet fads, which has followers scouring the earth for grass-fed beef and whatnot. I worry about the kind of carbon footprint that results from these privileged, meat-heavy diets, but that's a different issue.
Lifesource has to cater to their market to stay in business, and if I have to pass by some grilled chicken and Late July potato chips to get my farro and dates and sweet potatoes and tortillas, I'm more than happy to overlook it if it means a small business can remain viable.
And about that 10% discount. I'm glad they offer it to you. My parents are seniors on a fixed income. They will never see another pay raise. Grocery costs increase, but their income doesn't. Those discounts help. As a worker, my income adjusts every so often (hopefully) to keep up with the cost of living. I can absorb price increases that might present a hardship for seniors. And heck, getting old isn't always easy. If someone wants to give you a discount to sweeten the deal, take it!
Posted by: Carissa | January 22, 2019 at 08:06 PM
And Skyline, check your assumptions. Not all seniors are wealthy and secure. My husband works in social services. The vast majority of his clients are seniors. They are frequently the poorest of the poor, have unstable housing, unreliable transportation, at risk of abuse, and are food-insecure.
Maybe you should explore this subject before making broad assumptions and passing judgement.
Posted by: Carissa | January 22, 2019 at 08:17 PM