What’s for dinner? Whatever’s in the waste bin
Scott Nash, CEO of MOM’s Organic, joins NCL’s Executive Director Sally Greenberg for a dialogue about America’s shocking food waste epidemic, our food system, and the impact that our dinner plates have on the environment.
What’s for dinner? Whatever’s in the waste bin
Sally: Scott Nash is founder and CEO of MOM’s Organic Market, which began as a produce delivery service that he ran out of his MOM’s garage. Now MOM’s has stores in four States and DC and employees over 1,000 people and is dedicated to protecting and restoring the environment. And Scott, I understand you’ve just opened your 19th store. We’re particularly interested in your headlines in the Washington Post for eating expired food for a year and you live to tell the tale. So we work on food waste, and we’re very interested in your perspectives on that. So let me ask you to start. What inspired your decision to eat expired food for an entire year?
Scott: Generally, I do not like waste of anything and being in the food industry, I see a lot of waste. It’s right in front of me every day. I would see things and I’m kind of cheap also. And so I’d have things in my refrigerator where it was past date and it looks good to me smell good to me. And so I would eat it and I’d be okay. So I just started to question those dates because it seemed like hardly anything was bad by the expiration date.
Sally: Is there anything that you ended up tossing out or avoided and we’re consumer oriented, so we like the message about not wasting food and I grew up in a household, we didn’t waste food either. So I have that sort of in my DNA and it sounds like we share that but there are times when you have to use your head and say maybe I won’t, I’m not going to eat this. So what are your rules of the road?
Scott: Well, I mean, it’s the sniff test. The sniff test is important, especially on things like dairy and meat and then there’s the visual tests. How does it look? Is it discolored is there mold on it? These are the things that
Sally: Wait, I thought mold was good for you.
Scott: It’s not, you have to cook that stuff some mold blue cheese, of course. But now I don’t eat moldy things generally. And then sometimes something was on the edge, like chicken, for example, and I’d rinse it off and I couldn’t tell if it was on the edge. So I’d cook it up and then I’d take a bite and then if it didn’t taste great it’s going into my compost pile. But most of the times I can tell if chicken’s bad, for example, where fish, especially just coming out of the package.
Sally: Have you ever gotten food poisoning?
Scott: No, never.
Scott: I mean, I got sick from oysters one time but that was a thing in the water.
Sally: What’s a weekend dinner look like for your family because you, you apparently do all the cooking for your family? Tell, tell us about that?
Scott: I mean, that’s funny you should ask because my office is right above my grocery store, one of my grocery stores. So the way I shop is I go downstairs to the grocery store and I look at not what looks best, but what looks worst. And so I kind of prepare my meals around things that are going past dates, things that have a later date than what’s up, things that might have a broken package.
Sally: Examples are?
Scott: Well, like lately I brought home a ton of chicken, which I cooked last night, actually. And then if there’s like 15 ground beefs up and one of them looks a little gray, it means usually the package has been broken – the air seal. I’ll take it home and I don’t eat it if it’s bad, but almost all the time it’s good and so that’s kind of how I – again, I hate waste obviously.
Sally: So you walked through the store and make decisions on what’s looking like it could be used quickly and not be wasted?
Scott: It’s sort of an interesting, the customers want the freshest stuff possible and we have the freshest stuff possible, but every grocery store has things that just aren’t going to sell through of arbitrarily sometimes maybe somebody over ordered something. So I’ll go through the produce for example, I might see a whole bunch of potatoes that they’re off season, they’re not looking as great as.
Sally: They’re growing those things out of them?
Scott: Maybe a little bit or they’re turning a little bit of a shade of green or something, I’ll look at that and say, it looks like we’re having a huge tub of mashed potatoes tonight or maybe the asparagus is not in season. It’s looking a little tired, take that home and we’ll have asparagus. So yes, I shop at the store the exact opposite way almost everybody else does.
Sally: So I have to ask this question, your stores are called MOM’s, all right. So where did you get this ethos about not liking waste? Must’ve come from somewhere?
Scott: Well, I mean, my parents are Midwestern transplants from Minnesota and I think even my dad was a penny pincher. I mean, he was a teacher, a college professor. He made good money back then but.
Sally: What did he teach?
Scott: He taught business and when he died in 1982, I mean, he was making like 40,000 a year and that was good enough, very commendable but it was just in his – both my mom and dad’s culture and values to not waste. I don’t mind paying for something great. I don’t like overpaying for anything. And then throwing stuff away is just, especially if you look at the ecological footprint of what it takes to produce and bring food all the way into our kitchens, like that’s a hefty carbon footprint. And so it’s even more tragic to just throw that stuff into the trash or a compost pile or wherever because of some arbitrary date or even a blemish.
Sally: Yes. Well, we waste 40 percent of our food in the United States and I grew up in Minnesota.
Scott: Did you? What town.
Scott: Oh, nice. That’s where my mom grew up.
Sally: My mother never wasted anything
Scott: Well, and I love Minnesota by the way. People I meet from Minnesota seem to be cut from the same mode and my dad grew up in Tracy, Minnesota.
Sally: Okay, there you go. Well, it’s a farming community too. You’re surrounded by farmers and you know how hard they work to grow the food. And so food’s a lot cheaper than it once was. And so people feel more liberty, I guess, to waste it. But so you run a bunch of supermarkets all over the metropolitan area and you see a lot of food waste. What drives you craziest about what you see?
Scott: I hate stuff going into the trash. There’s the ridiculous waste of like this goes into the trash, then there’s the money waste. But the money waste, honestly, isn’t as painful as the into the trash waste. And so we take most of our food and donate it to kitchens who are feeding the hungry. So that’s good.
Sally: What gets donated? Is it stuff that’s past the sell date or doesn’t look as good as it should?
Scott: Everything and it’s funny though, some charities don’t even take expired food, even though it’s perfectly fine. I live in Bethesda and every year, somebody leaves a grocery bag on my front step with a piece of paper stapled to it saying, please donate your items. We’ll pick it up on exit date, but no expired food. And all they take is mostly canned goods and bottles and that stuff never goes bad. So even they aren’t wanting to take expired canned goods. I mean, the whole idea of a canned good is that there’s no oxygen and this stuff will last forever. I mean, I hear they are still using sea rations from past Wars. So people just are looking at these dates neurotically. If you use a strong word like that or irrationally, it just doesn’t make sense.
Sally: How would you change policy if you were in charge of labeling these products? The industry has tried to be cognizant of the fact that people are throwing food away and appropriately, but maybe they’re not going far enough for you. How would you if you could put labels on foods, what would you, what would you say you want to keep people safe clearly
Scott: Is the industry concerned? Is that what you –
Interviewer: Well, FMI and GMA, these two industry giants they’re trade associations. They change the labeling to say best if used by as opposed to expiration date.
Scott: That’s good. That’s great. I mean, expiration date means it’s expired, it’s dead, whatever and that’s the thing is you have, and I’m glad they’re doing that, but you have best buy, best if used by, expires on, sell by. It’s just so confusing. People just see a date. They don’t care what those words are, really. They just assume, I’m going to get sick at the stroke of midnight of this date. I need to throw it away. And I’m here to testify that nine out of ten things are not even, you can’t even notice that they’re old and have a past date.
Sally: Well, you and I are living examples of people who eat expired food all the time and we’re fine. I had one bad experience and that was only because I did something stupid with fish. And it was, a fish cake that I took on a hike with me and that was not a good idea.
Scott: Well, that’s not expired food. That sounds like poor food handling.
Sally: It was poor – thank you. Well, you would know you’re in the business. So in general, I would say we’re on the same page. I never have gotten sick from anything. So I think we don’t want to be irresponsible with consumers and we don’t want to get consumer sick, but I think the word has to go out. There’s a lot of food that you could be eating that you’re being advised not to. And it’s resulting in this epidemic of food waste.
Scott: Well look, society has become really anxious to the point of, I think you could classify it as a disorder at this point about everything. And so you look at like, these food scares, someone gets sick, there’s some romaine lettuce here, whatever, and the whole world knows about it. And then it gets recalled. I mean, I’ll tell you like the romaine recall last Thanksgiving was tragic with the amount, I mean, they recalled every head of lettuce in this country. It just seems like, and that really hurt a lot of people, a lot of farmers, everybody right up and down the food chain. So I feel like we’ve really gone overboard on our anxieties around food safety. And here’s the other thing, if you do some research online, the pH levels, I mean, if you’re really do finally get something bad, the pH levels in our stomach is high, even compared to wild omnivores. So at some point we, as humans probably survived on carrion. I mean, you know, we needed that as an option. Dead kind of rotting meat that
Sally: Was cooked.
Scott: No, was found in the woods. And so 10,000 years ago, whatever, and so, you I’m not really saying eat stuff, that’s rancid and your stomach will take care of it. But as a failsafe, our bodies are there to protect us and they do a good job at it.
Sally: Yes, and people could try it and it’s a hit or miss, but for the most part, as I said, we’re living examples of people who use caution but don’t believe everything is necessarily on the label. So let’s talk about organic, the label organically, there’s a lot of mythology around, or you can’t believe this label or that label, the organic label is a good verifiable label from a consumer perspective, at least from where we sit.
Scott: It’s the most regulated food label we have and you people don’t quite trust it or they think it’s a sham. Like it is the most regulated food label that we have. You have to be certified. There are on farm inspections, it’s serious. And if you violate the organic certification standards, you go to jail and they take certifications away from people who are caught to be, if not deliberately fraudulent, just making mistakes. So it’s very trustworthy. Some people, I think things are applied to them like pesticides, organic foods, but there are organic pesticides, for example. It’s not what people necessarily think it is. Everyone just thinks it’s like food growing 300 years ago. Now they’re innovative and the ways that they kill pests but it’s all organic, applications.
Sally: And better for the environment?
Scott: Absolutely. That’s not saying much by the way. I mean, they don’t hurt the environment but the chemical farming destroyed the environment. So yes, so much better for the environment and the chemical farming but that’s not saying much.
Interviewer: Tell us about your niche in the organic grocery industry. You’ve got a lot of competition. Can you share with us what your day to day struggles are with that and the positives and the negatives of some of your organic competitors?
Scott: I started this company, me and a guy actually started this company who I bought out just a few months after we started it in 1987 in July. So we’re 32 years old now and the industry has changed so much in 32 years so much. And Whole Foods gets a lot of credit for that. Now, I think they started in like ’78 or something, I don’t know. I’m sorry, ’80. I never forget, I was in my basement. I think it was about 2001 or two, a commercial came on my TV and it was for organic rice Krispies. And at that moment, after being in business for about 15 years, I thought, “Oh, my God, organics has just gone mainstream.” Like I knew it was getting out there a little bit, but that was the first TV commercial I ever saw for an organic product. And since then, of course, this just keeps taking off a bigger percentage of our whole food, entire food sales, and farming. So I’m lucky to be in an industry.
Scott: You asked about competition. I’m lucky to be in an industry where demand has really outstripped supply for like 40 straight years. Now that doesn’t mean that it’s not a war out there between competitors and everybody now has organic foods, Costco, Giant Safeway, everybody. We are really dedicated to organics. We carry more of a percentage of organic products than any other grocery that we know of. We have very high ingredient standards that were kind of like an extreme or radical organic grocer and Whole Foods is like they’re a great stepping stone between like us and the conventional, like Safeway and Giant. And by the way, when you, when a consumer doesn’t just wake up one day and decide I’m going all organic. It’s a process for sure. And so that process can take years. So Whole Foods is very good at transitioning people who are otherwise buying crap at like Giant and Safeway and moving them closer to buying more and more organic products. So Whole Foods has helped us and the whole industry. Yet if we have a whole County to ourselves and they open in the County, we’re going to lose some business but not much and then you have all these other competitors. Again, organics is kind of everywhere,
Sally: Why would someone go to a MOM’s as opposed to Whole Foods?
Scott: Well, all of our produce is organic certified. And to me, it’s the highest quality actually, not to me, to everybody. It’s the highest quality produce you can get. We get daily deliveries and our handling is – and our standards are really top notch. We have an incredible selection of products. It’s like a treasure hunt. You can come into our stores and find products that frankly Whole Foods is too big to carry and so we get all these smaller manufacturers who launched their products in our stores.
Sally: How about the shopping experience?
Scott: The shopping experience, there’s a lot of science behind retailing and consumerism and shopping and so our shopping experience is really we call it a stress free Oasis though we, I almost don’t want to share a trade secrets but there are certain things we do to make the grocery shopping experience really relaxing. And I never forget. I’ve got kids who are 19, 17 and 14 now, but when they were much younger 10, 15 years ago, my wife and I were out at dinner with a couple, and they had kids our kids age. They got into an argument right in front of us and the topic was “who is going grocery shopping tomorrow.” And it wasn’t, who’s not going it’s, who’s going because they wanted to get the hell out of the house and have something to do. And so I realized then like, we have to make this – people have to go grocery shopping and they want to go grocery shopping. And a lot of groceries, they make it a worse experience. They call it like, they do self-checkout.
Sally: Oh, you don’t believe in self-check-out?
Scott: No, it’s terrible idea. It’s the only guaranteed human to human interaction a business has with their customer. Why forfeit that. It’s the craziest thing ever. So no, I think a lot of groceries are not great retailers. Trader Joe’s is a very good retailer and Whole Foods is a very good retailer. So anyway, these are some of the things that we do to differentiate ourselves from the competition.
Sally: Can people who don’t have a lot of money shop at your stores and not spend every penny they make on food?
Scott: Yes. Okay. Like 15 years ago, Super Value, a major conventional retailer wanted: and a lot of people have tried this. They tried to jump into the organic foods, fad. They, they want to capitalize on the trends. It’s not a fad, by the way, it’s a 40 year fad and they don’t understand the consumer or the marketplace, and they’re not very authentic. So they will choose locations where they think it’s got to be a college town, high education, super wealthy. But no, I mean, we have great stores in solid middle class areas and regions. You have to have a minimum income but you don’t have to be wealthy. But here’s the thing. People are so dedicated to organic foods. It’s a lifestyle. So they’ll forego like vacations or whatever to – it’s like asking somebody, “Hey, let’s go to this cheaper, less competent doctor.” Like, you’re just not going to get people to do that. And so the way organic consumers see it, this is a lifestyle choice. It’s higher quality. It’s better for our health and it’s better for the environment. That’s very valuable to the organic consumer and they don’t compromise on that.
Sally: Have you ever contemplated the concept of food deserts and opening up in areas where there isn’t many options?
Scott: I contemplated it, but it’s not something that would work. And that’s actually, I’ve seen that fail. I mean, food deserts, it’s a problem. It’s a huge problem when somebody can’t get food conveniently, but this is organic foods. And I will say that people who live in poverty or very low income, they have other things to worry about than the environment or their health, for example. I mean, they’re worried about their survival. And I will say that also our food system has sold people, especially in this country, a bill of goods with the high fructose corn syrup and the trans fats. And it’s ridiculous how those types of foods get subsidized by the USDA [United States Department of Agriculture]. And so everybody’s in white, white bread and flours and things, it’s just terrible for people’s health and people low-income report that’s part of their culture. It is cheap food and they’re forced into that. Growing up on crap food that’s cheap, that is subsidized by the government. So bringing organic foods
Sally: It’s like a catch-22.
Scott: It is a catch-22 and into a food desert, no one’s going to walk in there and buy it because it’s more expensive because it’s more valuable. It’s a better product and it’s not subsidized is why it’s more expensive as well. And they don’t want it anyway, generally. I mean, if they did, then there would be organic foods in really poor areas. And whenever anyone tries to do it, it usually fails. Almost always fails.
Sally: We know the Snap program through USDA is now offering at Amazon deliveries.
Scott: Oh, that’s good.
Sally: Yes. You see if you’re in a food desert, you could get food delivered. And I’m wondering if you guys have contemplated that?
Sally: You don’t do food?
Scott: No. We really try and focus on a bricks and mortar providing the best experience. And I have a lot of opinions on food delivery. I don’t think it’s ever really going to be substantial. I’m sure it’s not. It’s always overhyped. Wall street and investors over hype, every new food trend, whether it’s food delivery back in the early 2000 or meal kits recently with like Blue Apron or Amazon when they bought Whole Foods everybody went crazy. Like grocery is one of the last industries where humans like they forged and that’s an instinctual thing. And they don’t like to be isolated like so many people are these days with social media and all the things to keep us away from people. So I believe that the grocery shopping experience is one of the last bastions of human interaction and creative shopping.
Sally: And you also play a role in the whole climate change discussion and debate. You ban plastic bags, you ban a plastic water bottles. Tell us about that?
Scott: Yes. I mean MOM’s purpose is to protect and restore the environment. I think a lot of corporations get their mission statement wrong or their purpose. They confuse it with the brand promise. And we already talked about MOM’s brand promise when you asked what differentiates us from the customer. So you’ll see a lot of corporations with a mission statement that says “treat every customer like they’re a guest in your home.” Like that’s not, that doesn’t really make the world a better place. That’s just like a customer service policy. So, you know, we sell something that is inherently good for the environment. And so we’re very proud of what we sell and we’re all environmentalists and we are urgently trying to protect and restore the environment. It drives everything with our company.
Scott: And a lot of people think that big companies are bad just because there’s a big and I don’t buy that for one second. As a matter of fact, if you’re a really great company with a strong purpose, I hope you take over the world. I mean, look at Tesla or a lot of these great companies, solar companies. I hope that these good companies with strong purposes get to be gargantuan. And so we want to grow because we have more leverage when we now do a press release, it gets noticed when we take action, it gets noticed. We can earn more money and give more donations to the activist groups who support our worldview and purpose. So to us, we’re a great company. And so we want to be as big as we can be.
Sally: You also have a reputation, we’ll shift a little bit to how you take care of your employees and motivating the workforce and paying them a living wage. Can you talk about that? Because Whole Foods founder, as you know, was very resistant to some of those kinds of reforms.
Scott: Well, John Mackey was he resistant? I don’t know if that’s true. He thought he did call a healthcare fascism. But Obamacare, he called and he has also doubted climate change, I think, like what a nud.
Sally: And he’s very into union and spoke out about that.
Scott: Well, I have my opinions as well about many things but we compete for customers. We also compete for employees and so the federal minimum wage at $7.25, that’s immoral. I mean and we’re trying to pay people who are doing the hardest work and they’re working. It’s not a handout and it’s good for the economy. It’s not just the moral thing to do. It gives the people who are at the minimum wage, they’re not socking it away and they’re not hoarding it in some bank account or trust fund.
Scott: They are turning it right back into the economy, like right away. So it’s a win-win to raise the minimum wage. And Amazon did really well with that. They said at Whole Foods, we’re raising our minimum wage to $15. So, and a lot of retailers are coming up and we’re coming up. We were early one of the first people to pay a higher minimum wage. And we took strong positions on it. I did a lot of speaking and lobbying on Capitol Hill and we won. I mean, now minimum wage is the federal minimum wage. We haven’t won on that yet, but a lot of States are raising, cities. And so the movement,
Sally: And you support that?
Scott: Yes. totally. In fact, we’re about to raise, we’re having huge discussions now. Believe it or not, we’ve fallen behind a little bit at MOM’s. We were the first to jump way up and now in just a short period of time, the minimum wage for a lot of corporations has gone past us by a buck, or maybe they’ve tied us or a little less, but everyone’s come up. And so we don’t have the competitive edge anymore in hiring and recruiting, I believe that the economy is driven from the bottom up, not the trickled down. And so we’re about to raise our minimum wage once again, way up there.
Sally: So you’ve carved out a kind of an interesting niche. You didn’t finish college, you dropped out. You said that every boss you’ve worked for in the past you considered an idiot, which I particularly liked. Don’t always agree, but I thought it was a great line.
Scott: So well, that’s the mark of an entrepreneur.
Sally: So tell us about your personality characteristics of an entrepreneur?
Scott: Yes. They’ve actually kind of identified it. And it’s an ENTP [Extraverted, Intuitive, Thinking, and Prospecting] on the Myers Briggs scale. I mean, that doesn’t mean every entrepreneur is an ENTP.
Sally: What does that stand for?
Scott: Extrovert intuitive thinking, perceiving. And I took that task about 30 years ago. I remember I had already started my business and the book I was using at the time said, if there’s one word to describe your personality, its entrepreneur but the traits of an entrepreneur are basically, we hate authority. We like to help people. We like to offer value to consumers. It’s kind of those two things mainly. We make bad employees and we’re not very good students either.
Sally: You have a message you’d like to leave with American consumers who are listening to this interview?
Scott: I mean, on the expired food thing, for sure. And I’ll go back to that by the way. A lot of things they put expire dates on that can’t expire, like salt and baby wipes. I mean, it’s just gotten out of hand, but for the consumer, the food consumer, it really matters like I feel like buying organic foods is an investment in so many things. It’s not a higher cost. Actually, there’s a huge higher cost to buying the chemically farmed food and the empty calories. Organic food is higher quality in its flavor, but is almost like a social movement, just like civil rights have been a social movement for example, over time. That’s why organic foods is not a fad. It’s a long term trend that I don’t think is ever going to go backwards.
Sally: So you’re a food guy and we’re in an American environment where obesity, overweight and obesity at our all-time high.
Scott: Well, that’s white flour and white sugar or high fructose is corn syrup and its trans fats. And so what’s happened is again, those have been subsidized. The obesity epidemic, I believe could be mostly knocked out if people stopped drinking their calories and they started to eat whole grains, those two things like, like, okay, if you want your coffee, that’s fine. If you want a glass of wine, that’s fine. But stop with the sugary drinks, even milk. Like if people would stop drinking their calories and start to eat mainly whole grains. I think that the obesity epidemic would really – the same thing with food waste, by the way. And these expired food dates. Like if we could get these, like you said, 40 percent of, we waste food. So I think people are focusing on like, Hey, smaller plates or Hey restaurants, whatever, you know what I mean?
Scott: But if we could get this food dating system to be intelligent and consistent, I think you could cut our food waste in half.
Sally: Would you get rid of expiration dates?
Sally: How would you handle it?
Scott: We’ll just make them smart. First of all, an expiration date means I wouldn’t eat this. Not that its best buy, I just wouldn’t eat this. And it’s appropriate for things like chicken and fish and milk, but, you know, I used heavy cream. I don’t know if you saw my blog. I used to have your cream months past expiration dates. It’s just fine because fats are preservatives. So they need to be set intelligently, not like, “Oh my God, something could possibly go wrong here.” Or by the way, maybe the manufacturer is lobbying to have these short dates because of planned obsolescence. When we throw something away, they profit from that. So smart expiration dates, they should go. One of the things that actually expire, not things like salt, more canned goods, and then make the dates smart to reflect reality.
Sally: One of the areas of future possibilities are incorporating bugs and insects into our diet.
Scott: I mean, it’s a healthy, a lot of the world already does that. Bugs grow very quickly and they pack a nutritional punch, the high protein they have a small carbon footprint.
Sally: Well, you know all about the potential for bugs to
Scott: Yes. I mean, we sell stuff like cricket, corn chips and things now, and we’re so disconnected from our food sources and system. The pet peeve I have in a way is the pet lover who loves pigs to eat. You know what I mean? A pig is smarter than your dog and you love your pet like it is your kid.
Scott: You eat bacon and pork chops, like in Hammond sausages like it’s nobody’s business without even thinking about it. I dare anyone who loves their pet so deeply, go to a slaughterhouse and see what’s happening. An organic slaughterhouse, anything, a totally quote humane slaughterhouse. How do you kill something humanely? You’re killing it. I mean, I eat meat by the way.
Sally: Yes, I was going to ask, because you were talking about buying the chicken and the burgers. Do you go to slaughterhouses?
Scott: No, but I know what happens there. I have a friend who has one and I think I’d be okay with it because again, at thought, and I’ve seen some videos and stuff and by the way, the way I rationalize that is I only take the expired stuff, so it’s already been processed. The meat that I eat, I mean, not completely, I’m not going to go too far down this rabbit hole, but I see my pets – I think I’m consistent. I don’t see pets as like humans and children even though I’ve got two cats and a dog who are freaking awesome. They’re still not as important to me as my children and I know what happens in these slaughterhouses. I urge everybody to go through any slide. I actually had been to a slaughterhouse for turkeys. So anyway, there are more humane ways of doing it. We just got contacted by Ingrid from PETA because she said the ostrich we were selling, it’s not humane and so we investigated. She got one part of the kill process wrong that we found out
Sally: She is the CEO of PETA and founder and so you don’t want to cross hairs.
Scott: No, but we’re not going to get into cross hairs because I usually agree and she’s making sense. I’ll get into anyone’s cross hair if I think they’re wrong and I’ll battle that but she was right about the ostrich and basically what it came down to is this as a really huge animal, which is difficult to kill humanely, you know, quickly. And so we decided we better stop carrying this. We just got visions of an ostrich slowly being killed – difficult. You know what I mean? So anyway I’m being graphic here but this is how our food system is and we’re so far removed from it.
Sally: Michael Paulin who writes about food. He has written all the very many famous books says that we have incisors and teeth that are meant to eat meat. He said, the problem is the way we slaughter meat and it’s inhumane and it’s painful and if it’s quick and humane and they live decent lives, that’s how he rationalizes it.
Scott: Yes, like for a long time I didn’t eat mammals because I thought they were more intelligent than let’s say maybe a fish or a crab, which is like an ocean insect. So I had my scale and pigs are so smart, smarter than dogs. So everybody has their standards and process. Eating meat isn’t great. I mean something is in terror and it’s bad for the environment. But here’s the thing, I get interview right now, me talking about this issue and they’ll have a lot of feedback for me and my response to many is, it’s a process for people. It’s just like organic foods. Like people don’t go grocery shopping at Walmart for 10 years then suddenly hit us.
Scott: There’s this process in between. So people have to be allowed to be on their journey or process of change. And so maybe people will stop eating red meat and they’ll eat fish instead, which is not as bad for the environment. And then again, it might take years. So we at MOM’s, we give people – first they might stop eating that KFO meat in huge factory farms. And they’ll transition over to the humane meat that we sell from Ayrshire farms that’s organic. It’s not perfect but they’re improving and is part of their journey to have a better diet.
Sally: So this has been great. Before we close, tell us about some of the initiatives and the new projects that you’re undertaking, places you’re opening new stores. What do you see in for MOM’s future?
Scott: We are going to keep growing because like I said, we think we have a real urgent purpose and we have 19 stores now. We’re in Philly and we are looking in New York. We’re going to open another store in the Philly region probably this year or early next year. We have a store coming in Northwest DC but that’s new construction. So it’ll be a few years, I think.
Sally: Any new initiatives we should know about in your space?
Scott: I mean, we’re really focusing mainly on renewable energy. That’s the name of the game? I think we probably already are past the point of no return when it comes to climate change. Here’s the problem with humans that until they feel pain or discomfort, they’re not going to change as a general group. It’s just nature. It’s not even human nature, just nature. Life reacts to pain and discomfort as a source of change. What they say is that when the pain of change becomes less than the pain of not changing and that’s when people change. And so no one’s suffered any pain yet from the environmental havoc that’s being reached.
Sally: How does summer on record?
Scott: How does summer on record? All the scientists predicted this 30, 40 years ago, and here we are. Now, the great thing about life is it adapts. So who knows but it’s too risky for me. And so we are urgently focusing on really two things bothering me the most: it is climate change, the burning of carbon and then plastics pollution. It just drives me crazy.
Sally: And one last follow-up question, renewable energy. What are you doing?
Scott: We offset all of our energy with either wind or solar and others, I think too hydroelectric. So we’re supporting subsidizing the industry by buying that renewable energy directly but we’re also building onsite. We have solar farms on some of our stores. We opened up a huge solar farm in Kingsville, Maryland right around our White Marsh store. So we’re doing everything we can to focus on solar and wind. And then plastics is just the worst. I mean, everything’s made out of plastic or clothing. So we do a million things. We recycle batteries, we recycle shoes,
Sally: Do people bring batteries to the store?
Scott: Yes, they bring everything. So we recycle so much stuff, wrappers,
Sally: They can bring clothes, batteries, shoes,
Scott: We have a jeans drive, where they take that and they make it into the home installation. So we do everything we can but again it’s the climate change and the plastic pollution that, really – I can’t do more. We’re just doing as much as we can because it’s a real issue.
Sally: And your kids?
Scott: My kids. Yes, I got three of them and,
Sally: What’s in their future?
Scott: The 2016 election really traumatized so many of us. It’s shifted our – like the Don Henley song, it’s the end of innocence. Human nature is tricky and our instincts run a mock, there’s a lot of fear, anxiety and fear and anxiety can take the form of selfishness and greed. That was a bit of a perspective shift for me. I’ve been alive – I’m 54 and the easiest time it’s ever been to be alive for any life form on this planet. And I’m so lucky. I mean, how easy has my life been being a white man in America, you know what I mean? Mine would be royalty and I know I have my privilege and I’m aware of it and I try and be grateful for it. And I’m aware of other people’s lack of privilege. And it is unfair. Things are changing and I don’t know how much longer it’s going to be this easy. Is it going to be in my lifetime? My kids’ lifetime, I just don’t know. But the recent events of the world either dating back to nine 11 or from there to here, they’re getting pretty significant. And so I’m grateful for what I have right now.
Sally: I have to ask you about ugly foods. What do they represent?
Scott: I don’t really believe in that. I mean it’s funny because I am a believer. I mean, you can probably understand my ideological beliefs, world view. I’m a believer in the marketplace, the supply and demand. A baby carrot is not a baby carrot. A baby carrot is an ugly carrot that’s been put through a machine and made into a little knob.
Sally I didn’t know that.
Scott: And you know what great, I mean, it’s an ingenious way of bringing to market something that was previously being thrown away. And I’m not a manufacturer, but my assumption is that apples and things and things grown grapes, they grow them for apple juice or TV dinners, whatever and then the stuff comes to the retail shelf, fresh produce. That’s something that has to look good. That is the way consumers are for retail sells. So ugly produce or ugly food, no one’s going to buy it. There’s no market demand, like even at a cheap rate and I know people tried it. It was the former president of Trader Joe’s opened up the Daily Table in Boston. And then again, in the grocery industry you see these fads or trends come and go and one of them was ugly produce. Like no one wants that stuff even a discount. It’s like a bag of stuff that might be edible, but people want their stuff looking good. And so I do believe they’re putting a lot of that stuff into like manufactured products. And the 40 percent food waste thing, that number, I wonder about it because I don’t know if these are the former baby carrots sitting in the field.
Sally: You think it’s bigger or smaller?
Scott: I think it could get smaller. I don’t know what they’re including in on that. I don’t think that that 40 percent number though, is people throwing stuff away that they didn’t finish eating. You know what I mean? I think it’s our spoilage stuff at the market. I think it could include the farm waste, which again, if you’re a large carrot manufacturer and you want to be profitable, you’ll find something to do with that waste. But I think that might already be happening. Like, again, I’m sure you have apple growers out there who take their grade A extra apple chips, extra, extra fancy stuff and they give that to me but then their bruise stuff or their chafe stuff, they give that to the manufacturer. So I feel like the marketplace is already taken care of a lot of food that would otherwise be wasted like the baby carrots.
Sally: Before we close, who do you admire in the industry or outside the industry? And I know you’re an iconic class, so you probably don’t have a lot of folks you look to, but you did talk about Tesla and Whole Foods.
Scott: I mean, corporate America, it’s seen in a certain way by people. You have like the Enrons of the world. I mean, Enron’s values were like respect, integrity, excellence, sustainability, like a fraud and everybody knows that story but the greatest companies on this planet were founded by liberal entrepreneurs. And the ones who totally disrupted entire industries, John Mackey, I mean, he is veered towards libertarianism, but I mean, he’s obviously a progressive, at least was and still is mainly. You have Japoli totally disrupted fast food. I mean, McDonald’s burger King, that’s all we had. And now we have all this fast casual stuff, all these new concepts it’s because it’s Japoli. Tesla, you know, even Costco incredible model. I mean they sell a lot of organics.
Scott: It’s a lot of crap, but they are socially liberal. They believe – Jim Sinegal, he spoke to the democratic convention on workers’ rights, I mean, I read Steve jobs book, he hated Fox news. You have Google, all these people who have, Bezos: all these people who have disrupted the commerce across the world. We’re liberals, so I admire all those guys because and you get big. I mean, I’m mad at Facebook now. I freaking hate them now because they’re not taking, I mean, Zuckerberg keeps promising and then doesn’t deliver. And he keeps saying the same stuff over and over again, and then not taking action. But anyway, you get my point. Warren Buffet greatest, you know, another progressive who believes in taxing the wealthy. So I admire all the other entrepreneurs who are the greatest entrepreneurs on this planet and they’re liberals who are changing the way.
Sally: Who believe in climate change and in greater income equality?
Scott: Science and facts and smart economics, that type of stuff. Yes.
Sally: This has been incredibly inspiring. Thank you, Scott, for taking the time to talk with us and for everything you do in the community and for providing consumers with an alternative and a wonderful organics option.
Scott: Thanks for having me. I appreciated it.