After Protests, Whole Foods Will Stop Selling Cheese and Fish Produced with Prison Labor


Good news, or something: Whole Foods will stop selling goat cheese and tilapia made with prison labor. This news comes after their price-gouging scandal and recent announcement that they’re fire 1,500 staffers in an attempt to lower their prices.

The chain, according to Time, stated that by April 2016, all of their tilapia and goat cheese that was farmed, crafted and raised by Colorado’s inmate labor program will be removed from stores.

Prison reform advocates like Michael Allen had raised concerns about the products made for pennies a day by prisoners but sold as high-ticketed items:

“They say they care about the community, but they’re enhancing their profit off of poor people,” Allen said, noting that inmates are often paid meager wages for their work.

In response, Whole Foods spokesman Michael Silverman said some things about “help[ing] people get back on their feet and… become contributing members of society.”

Well, as my colleague Kelly Faircloth wrote last year, it’s true that dairy and fish are growth industries.

For Colorado’s part, the website for Correctional Industries, a division of Colorado’s department of corrections, says it aims to “train inmates with skills and work ethics that help them secure employment after release.” The only part they omitted was “while paying them paltry and possibly unethically low wages.” CCI’s base rate is 60 cents per day, though they say the monthly average pay comes to $300 to $400, “with incentives.”

Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy and Quixotic Farming, the origin of the goat cheese and tilapia, had no comment.

Prison work programs are great in theory, if they’re not treated as plain servitude, and if users can learn a skill that’ll decrease their likelihood of recidivism after release. Just look at Animal Planet’s Pitbulls and Parolees for a system that seems to work. But it’s an uncomfortable fit for customers who are dropping a month’s worth of rent in groceries to ensure that no one’s being exploited. Not to mention, what else is Whole Foods up to that isn’t protest-worthy?

Contact the author at [email protected].

Image via Shutterstock.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Share Tweet Submit Pin