Economics

Can Organic Eggs Be Unscrambled?

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Trust Buster

The phrase trust-busting always conjures sepia-toned images of pince-nez, Rough Riders, and bushy mustaches to me. But it's actually is alive and well: Yesterday, Whole Foods—apparently the Standard Oil of the 21st century—was hauled back out on the Federal Trade Commission's chopping block.

In early 2007, Whole Foods merged with another organic grocery chain, Wild Oats. The FTC decided that this looked like a trust that needed busting, arguing that "core" organic consumers would be stuck with only the Whole Food/Wild Oats hybrid for their shopping. We're talking about the people who need quinoa like turn-of-the-century householders needed their lamp oil.

A fast track decision let the merger continue, accepting Whole Food's argument that Wal-Mart and other traditional grocery stores have greatly expanded their organic offerings, and that even after the merger the chain has plenty of competition. But now an appeals court has revived the case by bouncing it back down to the lower court, crying out: Think of the tempeh eaters! 

Whole Foods has already closed four Wild Oats stores, and 27 have become Whole Foods locations. The transition continues during this round of the appeal—the company says it will go ahead with "business as usual," and the markets seem to believe them, since Whole Foods stock closed up 1.6 percent yesterday. Or as Richard E. Donovan, co-chairman of the antitrust practice at Kelley Drye & Warren in New York put it to The New York Times:

"The eggs are already scrambled. What are you going to do?"

Cage-free, organic eggs, one assumes.

More on Whole Foods and reason donor John Mackey here and here.

NEXT: Change We Can Believe In?

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  1. Quinoa is surprisingly good. I’ve tried a lot of other grains while attempting to go on a grain-heavy diet and lose some weight (and cholesterol.) Quinoa is the only one I don’t get tired of by bite 4.

    Just sayin.

  2. Legate, what about wild rice? Not regular rice with wild rice mixed in, but just straight wild rice. Pretty good. And with any grain, cook it in chicken (or vegetable) broth for flavor.

  3. Some British organic market chain called Fresh & Easy is setting up a store in my neighborhood, just about a mile from the nearest Whole Foods. So, Whole Foods has some new foreign competitors to mercilessly crush with its notorious practice of predatory low, low, race-to-the-bottom pricing.

    Does American antitrust law only concern itself with whether a business is perceived as dominating all other American businesses in the same market?

  4. There is only one venue in the entire state of Michigan whwer I can view NFL football* live. The FTC should get on that one next.

    There is also only one professional male football league in the whole nation. The FTC should be breaking it up. For the consumers, of course.

    I was going to make this post about baseball, but didn’t want to read uninformed comments about MLB’s anti-trust exemption.

  5. Why would you want to have an alternative to watching a team led by Gustavus Cherlius?

  6. And with any grain, cook it in chicken (or vegetable) broth for flavor.
    QFT

    Epi, it’s mostly a texture issue. Buckwheat (for example) is about as subtle as fist-sized wad of chewing gum.

  7. JsD- I’m assuming that the asterisk indicates that the Lions aren’t, and never will be, an NFL-calibur franchise?

    When the Red Sox won in 04 and everyone was talking about how happy they were that their dad/grandpa/creepy Aunt Flo got to see that, it occurred to me that as a Lions fan, I already know for certain that I’m going to die without seeing a championship. I try to enjoy that lack of uncertainty.

  8. Epi, it’s mostly a texture issue. Buckwheat (for example) is about as subtle as fist-sized wad of chewing gum.

    Agreed. Buckwheat blows. I’d say the best grain textures are white rice, quinoa, and wild rice.

  9. Imagine all of the scenarios where a company occupied a seemingly dominant position in the marketplace; only to be foisted from that position by some competitor the Annointed in government never imagined becoming strong enough to do so. Such is the unpredictable nature of decentralized societies. In ten or twenty or thirty years some other company will come along and topple Whole Foods and it will be to the complete surprise of the elites in Washington.

    They never learn.

  10. Wild Oats, yuk. There stores smelled like weird vitamins.

  11. Remember how everyone was talking about how Janice Rogers Brown from California would be the next great libertarian judge! We she sided against Whole Foods yesterday and wrote the opinion for the FTC. What a joke. Judge Back FTC over Whole Foods

  12. Yet no one noticed that AT+T has completely re-formed as a larger even more monopolistic entity.

    What a ridiculously perverted sense of priorities this exposes.

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