This Bag Of Chopped Spinach Needs More Bird Feathers

Zach’s wife found a bird feather in a bag of 365 Chopped Spinach. When she called Whole Foods to complain, a bird-brained employee quipped “You’d be surprised at how much stuff people find in their food!”

Zach writes:

My wife just opened a bag of spinach she bought at Whole Foods. As she was draining it, she found a bird feather (she’s a biologist, so we’re confident in her finding).

We’ve got stock in Whole Foods too, so we have no axe to grind, but were a little upset at how the customer service rep handled it (no concern about feathers being in other bags, saying “you’d be surprised at how much stuff people find in their food”).

What happened when she returned the plumery greens to the store?

To complete the story, the next day my wife returned the feathered spinach to Whole Foods. The manager said that they’d pulled the spinach from the shelf and notified other area stores about the problem. My wife confirmed that there was no frozen chopped spinach available in the store. When she asked a person stocking shelves where she could find it, he said it’d been pulled. So the problem had been communicated to the staff too.

The manager offered to reimburse my wife for the purchase, but quickly realized that it cost all of $1.50, so he gave her a $25 gift certificate.

Good save by the manager, but still, how did a bird feather land in a bag of chopped spinach?




Edit Your Comment

  1. darkened says:

    This is why I choose to NOT eat organic.

  2. I don’t believe the wife. She’s a biologist, not an Ornithologist.

  3. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    Well, birds are organic…so I don’t see the problem here.

  4. HeyThereKiller says:

    @darkened: they never said it was vegetarian

  5. noquarter says:

    @darkened: Because you believe that spinach grown with the use of pesticides would not have birds nearby when harvested?

  6. Ok, to be serious. I’m guessing the feather had the same characteristics as a spinach leaf. It looks like a downy type feather, which is soft, and not stiff, like a leaf, and the quill is probably very similar to the stem of the spinach leaf. It is understandable. This is why you should wash all your greens. You’d be amazed how much sand/grit is on parsley.

  7. Balisong says:

    I like the photo of the “sell by” date. Is this what happens when spinach goes bad? :D

  8. jodles says:

    @GitEmSteveDave: it’s still kinda gross.

  9. Rukasu says:

    Leave spinach ALONE!!!…all you people trying to sell your fresh and frozen, even your baby varieties…Spinach is a living thing! It had salmonella for Christ’s sake, don’t you have any decency, it needs privacy. And now this…bird feathers are organic dammit! LEAVE SPINACH ALONE! LEAVE SPINACH ALONEEEEEEE!

  10. loueloui says:


    Exactly. Especially if that pesticide is DDT.

  11. Rukasu says:

    err….maybe it was e.Coli….it doesn’t matter! It was in rehab, it is trying to put that behind it, that was in the past…DAMMIT LEAVE SPINACH ALONE!

  12. phospholipid says:

    but thats where all the flavor comes from :[
    25$ gift card? bangin’, thats customer service
    right there. maybe he realized if they’d eaten it
    it’d cost his company more then 25$

  13. This Bag Of Chopped Spinach Needs More Bird Feathers, and Guess what?! I got a fever, and the only prescription… is more cowbell!

  14. Sam says:

    @loueloui: Just to clarify (or nitpick, depending on your point of view): DDT doesn’t directly kill birds. It simply causes eggshells to be so thin as to cause brood failure. More info.

  15. Antediluvian says:

    Good save by the manager, but still, how did a bird feather land in a bag of chopped spinach?

    How? Because it’s a vegetable grown outdoors in sunshine, rain, and dirt.

    Nothing related to organic or conventional production methods AT ALL.

    In spite of enhancements to mechanical washing and packaging, it’s very difficult to completely clean natural items (fruit, vegetable, leafy green, root crop, berry, etc) and REMOVE ALL TRACES OF NATURE FROM IT, no matter how hard some folks try.

    Part of it is because the items are grown, not manufactured, so they’re lumpy, non-uniform, and subject to the whims of Nature.

    In fact, unless you’re eating something you peeled (banana, inside of a potato, corn, avocado, squash, melon, etc), it’s pretty much a given that SOMETHING (animal or insect) pooped on it, walked across it, or maybe even had sex on it.

    People’s removal from the source of their food is becoming more and more problematic. As a culture, America is forgetting where eggs, milk, chicken breasts, pork chops, hamburgers, and ketchup come from, and apparently spinach and lettuce, too.

  16. youbastid says:

    @darkened: This isn’t a problem of food being labeled organic. It’s a symptom of what happens when food is processed with little or no direct human supervision. There is no such thing as high quality chopped/processed/frozen veggies, organic or not.

  17. damitaimee says:

    @darkened: i’m not sure i understand what you mean. pesticides don’t lessen your chances of getting a bird feather in your foods. bugs and dirt, yes, anything else….no.

  18. ancientsociety says:

    @Antediluvian: What!? My food comes from nature! *gasp*

    I need to call my senator! All food should be grown in hermetically-sealed and climate-controlled industrial warehouses where workers have to wear full-body white suits and be “de-contaminated” before and after entering lest they spoil my perfect spinach!

  19. forgottenpassword says:

    I prefer my errant contaminants so highly processed that I dont even know its there! That’s whY I prefer processed foods over organic.

    Ignorance is bliss.

  20. @Sam: And to clarify even more, DDT was safe enough to eat. The stuff that replaced it was safe for birds, but hell on other living things, like the people who applied it.

  21. damitaimee says:

    @HeyThereKiller: not sure what that means, either.

  22. noquarter says:

    @Antediluvian: And I hear they spray plants with the stuff in toilets in order to make them grow.

    They should use Brawndo instead.

  23. youbastid says:

    @noquarter: It’s got what plants crave.

  24. Oh man, food outside getting mixed with other outside things… Guess minimal processing has it’s downside. Personally I’d be happy with a refund and a new bag of spinach. We all know the amount of bugs and other crud we ingest due to most foods, right?

  25. @youbastid: yeah, it’s got electrolytes!

  26. just_paranoid says:

    i like to pee on the organic crop fields in my area.

  27. m4ximusprim3 says:

    @youbastid: And I like it that way.
    The day my spinach costs $20 per lb because some worker had to stand there all day and inspect it for bird feathers and bug love-deposits is the day I grow my own damn spinach.

  28. ptrix says:

    @damitaimee: It seems that somebody forgot about “the food chain”. see, here’s my understanding of how stuff works – insects and pests eat the crops and many birds in turn, might like to eat those pests. so we use pesticides to destroy the pests. and a side benefit of doing so means less likelihood of hungry birds hanging around to get at them, so effectively, using pesticides DOES in fact lessen the chances of bird activity (and thus, bird droppings and bird feathers) in and on your spinach.

  29. xamarshahx says:

    I had a friend who worked at a supermarket, he said dead frogs, mud, etc… always came in with fresh produce, they would rinse it and put it on the shelf. This food is from a farm and cut and packaged by machines, that is why i always wash fresh produce and even pre-washed items, no one is going to take care of your food as well as you do. This type of stuff is bound to happen and I am just glad the family decided to just file a complaint and accept their apology instead of trying to launch a lawsuit.

  30. ancientsociety says:

    @just_paranoid: Wow, that’s certainly the surest way to get all those organic health nuts sick! Except for the fact that pee is sterile and washes off veggies easily….

  31. DrGirlfriend says:

    When we start fearing feathers, we know we’ve got problems.

  32. RAREBREED says:

    At least they didn’t try to charge you more for having bird by-products in your spinach!

  33. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    @ancientsociety: At the risk of being gross, I was in danger of death from a massive kidney infection last year. My pee was emphatically not sterile.

    As for the object found in the spinach… it does not look like a bird feather to me. It looks like a wad of fiber. Such a fibrous mass could have come from a disintegrating spinach stem. Spinach stems are pretty fibrous.

  34. noquarter says:

    @ptrix: Pesticides have a tendency to kill birds. And it’s the dead ones that don’t get out of the way when the harvester comes through the field.

  35. FMulder says:

    That reminds me to start planning my 2008 garden..

  36. floydianslip6 says:

    looks more like a fake bird feather from a cheap boa… what bird has black down?

  37. Milstar says:

    A feather?

    I’ll be the first to say that I wouldn’t eat the feather but big deal! Just wash the spinach and eat it.

    This stuff grows outside and as another person posted, there are bird droppings, animal pee, and all kinds of bugs and slugs on your food before you eat it.

  38. tasselhoff76 says:

    I once bought a pre-made turkey Waldorf sandwich from Whole Foods. It was not until I go back to my office that I realized there was no turkey on the darn thing. I emailed to store to let them know – a “just so you know” note. Never heard anything from them. That’s been my only experience with Whole Foods CS, but it pretty much sucked.

  39. @floydianslip6: A black one.

  40. Myron says:

    “how did a bird feather land in a bag of chopped spinach?”

    Let’s see…

    Spinich is grown outside. Birds exist outside. Spinich and birds might exist in same outside. Whoila.

  41. Eric1285 says:

    Yep…your precious organic food is just as likely to be tainted with the unexpected as normal food. I’ll save my money and go with the non-organic.

  42. veraikon says:

    Seems to me that many people assume “organic” means “better” without ever stopping to consider how organic food is *actually different* from the mass-produced stuff. Chances are we all know at least one Organic Food Avenger who actually has very little idea of what organic food is all about. I’ve gotten many lectures from the Organic Food Avenger in my life. But all she ever says is “organic food is so much better for you!” over and over again. I for one have found plenty of spider webs in my organic grapes (once I even found a live spider). And ya know what? Those organic grapes didn’t always taste better than the mass-produced ones. So I never assume that organic is magically better. It’s largely a buzzword at this point anyway.

  43. jendomme says:


    I was thinking the same thing.

  44. youbastid says:

    @Eric1285: I’d prefer tainted with bird feathers to tainted with irradiation and genetic modification, but what’s the difference anyway, right?

  45. babaki says:

    @darkened: i find this hilarious. in another article about raw milk, you stated you will not give your children the MMR vaccine. but yet, you choose to eat foods with pesticides on them…

  46. AnnieGetYourFun says:

    @Antediluvian: For some reason, the idea of birds having sex on that spinach just made my day. Mind you, I’ve never seen birds have sex, so maybe that has something to do with it.

    Anyway, yeesh, it’s just a bird feather. It’s not the bird’s severed head or anything. Pick it out. Get over it. Move on.

  47. ancientsociety says:

    @veraikon: It’s only largely a “buzzword” because the industrial food lobbyists stripped the gov’t definition of “organic” of all true meaning.

    But hey, you enjoy those pesticides and genetically-modified crops. You know the ones that the gov’t studies – funded by the same industry that produces and relies on them – tells you are “safe for human consumption”. I’ll take a few spiderwebs and feathers over cancer anyday.

  48. DrGirlfriend says:

    @AnnieGetYourFun: I haven’t seen birds going at it, but I’ve seen ducks. To see one duck swoop down from out of nowhere onto another was a little bit funny, a little bit shocking.

  49. DrGirlfriend says:

    @veraikon: Okay, but…spider web versus pesticides? I’m not to the point of buying 100% organic, but even so, I think when weighing organic (as in, not man-made) stuff on your food against pesticides, I’m not so sure why we’d make the choice to ingest pesticides. Organic is a buzzword because it’s been abused by manufacturers and we don’t yet have a solid accrediting system. Which is a shame and, yeah, it means that what is labeled organic may not really be so. But that’s different than whether or not a feather in your spinach is a big deal or not.

  50. foonie says:

    For what it’s worth, this bag of spinach wasn’t even organic. Whole Foods has a conventional “365 Everyday Value” private label (which is how this spinach is labeled) and a separate “365 Organic Everyday Value” private label. All of the above ranting against organic is irrelevant to this case.

  51. bnilsen says:

    I once got two bird feathers in a box of chopped spinach– not the organic kind either. I wrote to the company and was reimbursed. They claimed it could have happened in the harvesting process. Ugh.

  52. Timbojones says:

    @AnnieGetYourFun: I saw pigeons do it once in a park in downtown PDX. It was fluttery and awkward for all three of us.

    @floydianslip6: Crows are quite common.

  53. cryrevolution says:

    Putting aside the organic debate we’ve got goin’ on here, its just a freakin’ “feather” (if it was that). Take it out, examine it, throw it away, eat the spinach, simple. Why customer service was called & products taken off the shelves, who knows. Seems a bit much for one measly “feather”.

  54. Timbojones says:

    href=”#c3467830″>AnnieGetYourFun: Oh and also: pray that you never stumble upon mating slugs.

  55. IrisMR says:

    @cryrevolution: Now what I want to know is if it was a whole bird and if so where did the head end up? :P

    yea. Feathers fall in fields. But you know, it’s supposed to be sorted and cleaned.

  56. Zach Everson says:

    @foonie: Thanks for pointing out that my spinach wasn’t organic. The Mrs. and I never buy organic–you never know what will be in it.

    @IrisMR: Bingo. Where there’s a feather, there might be a claw. We didn’t feel like sorting through the whole bag looking for talons and beaks.

  57. DallasDMD says:

    man this whining is pathetic.. its a feather!! think about the things your ancestors ate from the fields? find a feather? then they would just throw it aside and continue eating.

    get a grip. just rinse your veggies and get on with life.

  58. Antediluvian says:

    @AnnieGetYourFun: I’m glad I was able to bring a smile to your face with the thought of bird coitus, although I actually was referring to insects doing the nasty more so than vertebrates.

    But I agree the idea of some birds having at it on my spinach is kinda funny. :-)

  59. azgirl says:

    All Hail Humanure!

  60. fuzzball21 says:

    When I worked in their produce department, it was amazing what we found in the bunches of fresh spinach (both organic and conventional), including one very live, angry frog. Sure, insects were along for the ride quite often, but how about a frog….. never once saw a feather though…

    I found two different black widows in the organic grapes, though, the framer out there love the black widows because it keeps the insects under control. (I took them to my biology professor for a verification, but it was hard to not see the perfect bright red hour glass shape on it’s belly.)

  61. kris in seattle says:

    @Rukasu: That made me giggle.

  62. karmaghost says:

    Go organic and you’ll be surprised at what you find in your food. No pesticides, but lots of bugs and other stuff.

  63. ghostofczolgosz says:

    Thank you to those who noted that this is not an organic food. There is a “365” line and a “365 Organic” line (both Whole Foods private label brands).

  64. Triterion says:

    I bet the bird flew into the factory and right into the machine as it was bagging it!