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Pontormo

Whole Foods & Prosciutto

63 posts in this topic

I would like to be clear here that I consider Whole Foods my principal source of food, especially dairy products and meat. I shop at the farmer's market, go to Asian grocers, a little Italian place and other specialty stores and hit Safeway with my coupons for weekly deals. I may have cheered on Michael Pollan in this summer's exchange of open letters, but I am grateful there are three WFs within walking distance in my city.

However, this summer I have been scratching my head over the fact that no store in Washington, D.C. had prosciutto whenever I visited.

First there was La Quercia's domestic product that I got to try once. I went back a few weeks later and it was on sale. Big notice chalked up in the Deli department. Great.

"But we don't got it," I am told when I place my order.

I point to the sign. Shrug. Same thing other places, including my main store, when I ask for Prosciutto di Parma. Just this past weekend the guy behind the counter told me it was there yesterday, but they sold out. I speak to others more senior on the team.

"We keep running out. It goes quick," they tell me.

Tonight, I go to the third store for something completely different, the largest and newest in D.C. and see "Prosciutto di San Daniele" up on the board. "Yeah," I think. I heard WF was starting to carry this nearby in Virginia. I inquire.

This time, the Man leveled with me: "We're not carrying it anymore."

I ask why and am told it doesn't meet Whole Food's standards. Since I am interested in you all and your responses, I am not going to tell you much about the rest of the conversation or what I said about this. Let's just say one of his words was "organic." Some of my words were "American," "imperialism" and "lobster."

I was given a card with email addresses in Austin and an 800 number. I thank this employee for at least speaking frankly with me and not lying like the folk at my regular store.

I would like your help in pursuing this issue further, not just your reactions.

Please, do me a favor the next time you shop at Whole Foods. Could you please see if prosciutto is still up on the board in the deli?

Find out what happens if you order prosciutto. Be prepared to say, "Never mind," just in case there are some stores or regions that still carry this, though it might be interesting to learn if they're planning to restock.

If they don't have the item in stock, find out why. Don't tell them this story yet. Of course, word of this thread may spread to some stores and employees, but not all and not right away. See what they tell you and please post what you discover here.

Thanks.


"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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I saw the La Quercia prosciutto at the WF in Edgewater, NJ last week.


Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

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My local Whole Foods has a big sign up saying they don't carry Italian Proscuitto due to then not being able to find an importer who meets their standards. American proscuitto is available and on display.


PS: I am a guy.

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I want to know more about what standards they're talking about.

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I want to know more about what standards they're talking about.

Xenophobic.

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My local Whole Foods has a big sign up saying they don't carry Italian Proscuitto due to then not being able to find an importer who meets their standards. American proscuitto is available and on display.

This is interesting, Shalmanese! I am not sure what it means to single out the importer vs. the product. The distributor? I don't quite understand what that means.

The person I spoke with was not someone involved in decision-making, so he was not the most reliable source when he started rattling on about Italian stuff not being organic, etc. That's kind of where I got flabbergasted about the American company judging a traditional Italian product.

Yes, I would like to know more about the standards, too, and to ascertain whether there is something going on now with Italian prosciutto that WF knows about that I don't....or if the company is objecting to the product it has carried all along.

Good to know about La Quercia, too. None of the stores had any either, though I probably was too hasty to accuse the person at my regular store of lying. Maybe there are intentions of selling only the domestic product now and supplies are limited?


Edited by Pontormo (log)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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I just bought some San Daniele at my WF in Springfield VA four days ago. The only time I haven't been able to get any there is when they'd run out & were waiting for a delivery. How in the world could WF not consider Italian prosciutto to not be up to their standards? BTW - I haven't seen any advertising for La Quercia in a couple of weeks.

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Not to get all Occam's razor-y, but I always thought the reason that they didn't have real proscuitto was because they just didn't do the charcuterie thing. Pate's, non pre-packaged saucisses and salamis, quality cold cuts -- they just don't do it. I think they'd rather devote the training, counter-space and man-hours to selling something that yields a little more revenue per square foot, like prepared foods or fake artisinal breads.


I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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Not to get all Occam's razor-y, but I always thought the reason that they didn't have real proscuitto was because they just didn't do the charcuterie thing.  Pate's, non pre-packaged saucisses and salamis, quality cold cuts -- they just don't do it.  I think they'd rather devote the training, counter-space and man-hours to selling something that yields a little more revenue per square foot, like prepared foods or fake artisinal breads.

You had to bring the poor quality of bread into it, didn't you? You should check out the new lay-out in Tenleytown and the huge amount of space given over to mediocre chocolates!!!

Cautionary remark is in order. Good point. But, they DO sell ham for sandwiches and a couple of types of salami. (Their pate just never looked worth buying.) And until now, they could always be counted on for Italian prosciutto.

But how come fancy cheeses, walnuts suspended in honey, olive oil, sherry vinegar, olives and what not can come from France, Spain, Italy, New Zealand et al yet meats....?


Edited by Pontormo (log)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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When I am in D.C. I head over to Balducci for charcuterie and cold cuts. That french ham they have is awesome. Also, their meat is outstanding. The prime is a bit pricey, although the prime top sirloin is reasonable. Their choice cuts are the same price as WF and far superior. WF is great for veggies. ch

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Not to get all Occam's razor-y, but I always thought the reason that they didn't have real proscuitto was because they just didn't do the charcuterie thing.  Pate's, non pre-packaged saucisses and salamis, quality cold cuts -- they just don't do it.  I think they'd rather devote the training, counter-space and man-hours to selling something that yields a little more revenue per square foot, like prepared foods or fake artisinal breads.

You had to bring the poor quality of bread into it, didn't you? You should check out the new lay-out in Tenleytown and the huge amount of space given over to mediocre chocolates!!!

Cautionary remark is in order. Good point. But, they DO sell ham for sandwiches and a couple of types of salami. (Their pate just never looked worth buying.) And until now, they could always be counted on for Italian prosciutto.

But how come fancy cheeses, walnuts suspended in honey, olive oil, sherry vinegar, olives and what not can come from France, Spain, Italy, New Zealand et al yet meats....?

The bread offered here in NYC is pretty good--they have a selection from Sullivan Street Bakery

which is about as good as bread can get. (it gets pretty damn good).

With their WF philosophy, I believe the cured meats situation is somewhat grim.

Aversion to nitrites and trates or whatever.

Let's face it charcuterie is not a "health " food. (for the soul yes-- for the body...).

I would avoid buying prosciutto there regardless of quality because I do not believe there is a counterman (or woman) who even begins to understand how to slice it properly.

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They bake their own bread at my St. Louis WF. Ranges between mediocre and barely edible, although the loaves have lovely artisan-y names. There is one excellent bakery here in St. Louis -- Breadsmith -- perhaps they should get it from them. But then, I've never tasted any WF prepared food that utterly delighted me -- except for their cured "salmon candy" and (surprisingly) ready-to-cook crab cakes at the fish counter.

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Not to get all Occam's razor-y, but I always thought the reason that they didn't have real proscuitto was because they just didn't do the charcuterie thing.  Pate's, non pre-packaged saucisses and salamis, quality cold cuts -- they just don't do it.  I think they'd rather devote the training, counter-space and man-hours to selling something that yields a little more revenue per square foot, like prepared foods or fake artisinal breads.

You had to bring the poor quality of bread into it, didn't you? You should check out the new lay-out in Tenleytown and the huge amount of space given over to mediocre chocolates!!!

Cautionary remark is in order. Good point. But, they DO sell ham for sandwiches and a couple of types of salami. (Their pate just never looked worth buying.) And until now, they could always be counted on for Italian prosciutto.

But how come fancy cheeses, walnuts suspended in honey, olive oil, sherry vinegar, olives and what not can come from France, Spain, Italy, New Zealand et al yet meats....?

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I can't recall seeing any prosciutto sold there that wasn't pre-packaged, which avoids all the tricky problems involved with storage and making sure there's someone at the slicer that knows not to cut it like corned beef.

The other stuff -- from olives to sherry vinegar -- is relatively easy to store, display and sell and has nice long shelf life.

I'm just speculating, but the WF's cured meat offerings have always seemed to be of lower quality than the rest of their stuff.


I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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Correct me if I'm wrong, but I can't recall seeing any prosciutto sold there that wasn't pre-packaged, which avoids all the tricky problems involved with storage and making sure there's someone at the slicer that knows not to cut it like corned beef.

The other stuff -- from olives to sherry vinegar -- is relatively easy to store, display and sell and has nice long shelf life.

I'm just speculating, but the WF's cured meat offerings have always seemed to be of lower quality than the rest of their stuff.

Ya know...

This may be an area that will suffer due to their attempts to adhere to a philosophy that puts criteria other than just providing the best tasting food in play.

I know I have babbled on about this here before but....

Trying to reconcile often complex and confused terms like "organic" and "health" and Macro and micro biotic and local produced and fair trade and humane and....

with good taste and good quality is, at best, a difficult if not impossible proposition.

toss in "at fair and competitive prices..."

Sometimes these things work out--often they do not!

I much prefer establishments whose criteria is simply to offer the best tasting items.

I would rather see more focus on artisinal items (which are more often than not ethically produced under healthy conditions whatever that means) than finding products that meet these so called moral and philosophical standards (which often are lacking in the taste and quality areas).

But that's just me.

I get my prosciutto from DiPalo brothers and I have no idea if it is organic or from ethically raised pigs--it is just incredibly good--and they know how to slice it!

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Not to get all Occam's razor-y, but I always thought the reason that they didn't have real proscuitto was because they just didn't do the charcuterie thing.  Pate's, non pre-packaged saucisses and salamis, quality cold cuts -- they just don't do it.  I think they'd rather devote the training, counter-space and man-hours to selling something that yields a little more revenue per square foot, like prepared foods or fake artisinal breads.

This is too bad because Whole Foods might be the only place for people in some parts of the country to potentially have access to good coldcuts and charcuterie.

I'm speaking of locations without old style Italian and German delis which are becoming rare even in some places where they used to be plentiful. I wish someone at Whole Foods would decide that quality coldcuts, sausages and charcuterie derived from classic recipes from France, Italy and Germany is something worth selling. If there are issues regarding the import of some of these items they can also be made in the US.

Here's a vote from one potential customer.


Edited by ludja (log)

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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Just out of curiousity, I searched the Whole Foods site for "prosciutto". They offer a rather large number of recipes including it and "prosciutto de Parma" is listed as one of the items offered by their catering service.

No press release on why it is now beyond the pale...

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Another DC resident here -- I haven't been to a Whole Foods in a while, but I get my La Quercia proscuitto from Cowgirl Creamery. Dang, that's expensive stuff, but oh-so-delicious.


Cooking and writing and writing about cooking at the SIMMER blog

Pop culture commentary at Intrepid Media

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My point is not to say that prosciutto is hard to get now that Whole Foods never seems to have any.

Those of us in large cities or areas whose demographics cater to our culinary tastes are lucky and have lots of options. I therefore think Ludja makes an extremely important point when she refers to the blessing that WF represents to cities where there are not lots of different speciality stores. (You should see the pitiful little Asian grocery store in Boulder, CO, for example, though Denver is not far away.)

What is of great interest to me is finding out more about a new (?) policy and the decisions behind it.

If the dried-up supply of La Quercia is a fluke, and the store intends to carry it again, then is this part of a response to Michael Pollan and Go Local?

Or is it simply reflective of an antipathy to any food product that has been cured, processed, etc., and one that seems hypocritical since compromise is struck? Whole Foods has ALWAYS carried imported proscuitto, unpackaged, not sliced and in a new store in Alexandria, Virginia, there were workshops boasting about a new, snazzy traditional prosciutto slicer (machine, vs. the knife technique you'll find even in supermarkets in some places in Italy); San Daniele vs. Parma is relatively new to WF.

However, now that there is La Quercia, and some guys easy to visit in Iowa are looking very artisanal and natural to WF, willing to conform to the corporation's philosophical principles, WF doesn't need to deal with Italians too pig-headed to change centuries of practice to meet WF's standards. True?

Or do you offer bacon in its more healthful, uncured WF-sanctioned forms because too many customers want it and you are offering what you think is a better product? Ditto, hot dogs, pre-mixed ingredients for meatloaf or marinated chops, et al. Same with prepared foods, which I consider processed; they just don't have preserves. These are All-Natural and Good for You, but prosciutto is not?

It's not a hard sell, but it is a weird one. WF wants to be your Food Co-op grown up, your place to go several times a week for a quick meal after a busy day that you don't have to cook AND your gourmet food emporium.


Edited by Pontormo (log)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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Our Houston Whole Food (KIrby at Alabama) has only La Quercia in stock, and since it was on sale for $16.99 (versus $21.99 for San Daniele at Central Market) I purchaed some for the weekend. Very good quality indeed!

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My local Whole Foods has a big sign up saying they don't carry Italian Proscuitto due to then not being able to find an importer who meets their standards. American proscuitto is available and on display.

That's hilarious, the most industrial Italian Proscuitto di Parma is better than any North American (or anywhere else) version I have ever tasted.

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I was in the Colorado Springs Whole Foods today, and they had both Prosciutto di Parma and "American Prosciutto". One more data point.

Marcia.


Don't forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he wanted...he lived happily ever after. -- Willy Wonka

eGullet foodblog

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I was at the Whole Foods in Portland today and asked about the availability of Italian prosciutto (they only had La Quercia on display). The clerk's response was that they no longer stock the imports because the Italians use hormones. I alluded to the ban of live lobsters and now, great prosciutto. She seemed to take it well.

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Apparently the decision to sell imported proscuitto is being left to each region. Some regions still intend to carry Parma & San Daniele.

Apparently the concern is that in Italy, they give the pigs antibiotics for the first 12 weeks of their life. Anyone know how old they are when slaughtered? I gotta believe it's close to a year?

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How did you learn about the antibiotics? Just what WF told you?

Is there anyone here with the scientific knowledge or experience raising animals who can speak on this subject?

Or anyone else who sells Italian prosciutto?

Edited to completely revise content:

The following statement appears on the web site of La Quercia:

We do not use meat from animals that have been given subtherapeutic doses of antibiotics. The meat for our Prosciutto Americano is all from antibiotic free, animal by product free, hormone free pork.

This statement resembles what one hears from Niman Ranch and other suppliers of the meat that WF sells. There is an interesting dynamic going on here between the traditional, authentic European product and the artisanal producer who learned at the foot of the master, yet, being American, improves upon the original.


Edited by Pontormo (log)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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I was at the Whole Foods in Portland today and asked about the availability of Italian prosciutto (they only had La Quercia on display).  The clerk's response was that they no longer stock the imports because the Italians use hormones.  I alluded to the ban of live lobsters and now, great prosciutto.  She seemed to take it well.

Go to PastaWorks on 21st. They're still concerned more concerned about flavor than the politically correct food police. They have several types of Italian Proscuitto in stock.

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