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Fortune features an interview with Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, in which he addresses questions about the company’s plan – contested by federal regulators on competitive grounds – to acquire Wild Oats. Excerpts:

On The FTC… “Look at the track record of the Federal Trade Commission the last six years. They have approved 96 oil and gas mergers. They approved Smithfield buying the No. 2 pork producer, giving them around 30% market share in the U.S. [In 1999] they approved Exxon and Mobil merging. It's ludicrous to single [us] out for anticompetitive reasons. [The rules] are obviously being selectively enforced.”

• “Whole Foods will try to avoid tangling with the FTC ever again in the future. It's ironic: You can open as many stores as you want without permission from the FTC, but if you try to buy stores, that requires permission. The solution is obvious: We won't be buying stores, we'll be opening them. You don't see Wal-Mart acquiring anyone in the U.S. anymore. It's easier for them and us to just open stores.”

On the acquisition’s effect on pricing… “It will have a positive impact on Wild Oats prices, because we will lower prices there. It will not have much of an impact on our prices, because we have already announced we will sell off farmers' markets like Sun Harvest and Henry's and close down some redundant stores. We will get $700 million of sales out of Wild Oats, but that is only 10% of the combined company. So it will not give us a huge increase in our purchasing scale. It shouldn't do anything to our prices. Our prices are more constrained by [rival upscale grocers] H-E-B and Wegmans. That's who we price against.”

On competing with the likes of Wal-Mart… “We're going to continue to try to compete with them in terms of better service, quality, and larger selection. We're innovating on the product side: We have a commitment to ethically traded products. We're upgrading our animal-welfare program, and in London we've introduced our five step animal-welfare process. It's coming to the U.S. soon. We'll rate all our animal producers in terms of their welfare standards from one to five. We'll have that on the packaging or the case. Much of the meat sold in conventional supermarkets wouldn't meet our No. 1 standard. Producers will want to know what they can do to get their rating from a 2 to a 3. Competitiveness solves that problem.”
KC's View:
Mackey also says, by the way, that Whole Foods plans to experiment with a smaller, more modest store format that could offer the same sort of selection but with fewer bells and whistles.

Unless, of course, the FTC suddenly decides that it wants to restrict that kind of growth, too. Seems unlikely, but nothing would surprise me at this point.