Whole Foods, I come today to praise you. Mostly.

But I will give you some grief because I can’t think of a better corporate example of the studies concluding that healthy food costs more. Once only the rich could afford to be fat; nowadays only the rich can afford to be thin.

Today I needed a salad chock full of fresh ingredients. Where better to get one than Whole Foods? The company’s salad bars are great. They almost always have three types of greens, plus lots of items you won’t find everywhere: plant-rich proteins like tofu and edamame; shredded radish; green, red and yellow bell pepper; carrot; beet; broccoli and cauliflower. There are prepared salads using kale and great gains such as quinoa and wheatberry. They have a wide variety of dressings, some low in fat, ranging from a balsamic vinaigrette to Asian sesame, miso and Ranch. For protein, there’s eggs, mock crab and big chunks of grilled white meat chicken.

Uh, scratch that.

The chicken is where lunch started to cross from whole-some to Whole Paycheck, the company’s unflattering nickname.

Turkey chunks: real food?

The salad bar didn’t have any chicken; just some perfectly rectangular chunks of deli turkey. Those chunks never look appealing.

So I asked an employee at the deli counter if they might be putting some chicken out. After checking in the back, the employee said said the kitchen was all out. But the employee offered to chop up one of the breasts in the deli case. Great.

Then the employee put it in a deli box and weighed it and added the sales sticker.

“How much is that chicken?” I asked.

“$12.99 a pound,” the employee said.

“And how much is the salad bar?”

“$7.99 a pound,” the employee said sheepishly. “It’s different chicken. The salad bar chicken comes from the rotisserie.”

“So it’s $5 better a pound chicken?”

Recognizing how ridiculous that sounded, the employee opened the deli box, dumped the chicken on my salad and threw the box away.

“Yeah,” the employee said, “even I sometimes can’t afford to buy food here.”

So in the end I paid $11.81 for the salad. Count me virtuous and lucky, but still twelve bucks poorer.

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