Whole Story

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Responsibly Raised

Memorial Day kicks off grilling season and for many people, meat’s on the menu. We believe that the best meat comes from animals raised with more room to move and more things to do, in environments where safety and cleanliness are valued.

In the spirit of enjoying meat from animals raised with respect I asked Anne Malleau, Whole Foods Market’s global animal production and welfare coordinator to point out how five of Whole Foods Market’s suppliers put the animals first.


White Oak Pastures – Beef

"I love all those trees. Many farmers cut down the trees because that makes it easier to move equipment around the farm, or because cattle tend to hang out under the trees, which can pack down the land. But not here – these cattle have trees for protection from wind break and shade. They love to rub up against the trees too; you can see one in the back right, going to town. That’s grooming and it feels good to them, like a big scratching post.

It’s also nice to see mamas and babies together; they’re not being weaned too early. They’re clean, too – no muddy bellies or sides. And lastly, the pasture looks great. Even though it’s brown, it’s full with plenty of grass, not matted down. You can tell the cattle have been moving around it."


Thompson Farms – Pork

"The first thing I see here is a muddy sow – which is great! That tells me she’s got wallows, which pigs love. Wallows provide a place to cool down and protection from insects and the sun (pigs have sensitive skin!). I can tell it’s outside of the growing season, but the pasture still looks good and isn’t denuded. This shows that the animals are moved around, and also they’re not rooting around in the soil.

In some systems, nose rings are used to discourage animals from rooting. This sow doesn’t have a nose ring AND the land’s not denuded – that’s a sign of an effective management system.

Now let’s get to those babies. She’s got lots of piglets and they all have their tails. There are mixed breeds here; these guys will do well outside. With darker skin, they won’t sunburn as badly as pink or white-skinned pigs."


Pitman Farms – Chicken

"When I look at the birds themselves, I notice their full feathers and that they’re ranging freely. They’re also sticking around for the photo, which means they’re not freaked out by the presence of a human. I also like seeing the right breed in the right system. David Pitman is holding a California Bronze. This is a bird that was born to be outside as they’ve got strong legs and a good immune system.

When I look at the environment, I see perches, with lots of room for the chickens to get up onto those perches without banging into each other. They have a house they can go into at night and spots to crawl underneath for shade or to escape from aerial predators. Short and tall grass means some variability for their diets, too, as they peck around. Their food and water is available inside or out, and the pasture looks great. This is a mobile system – by the look of the pasture you can tell it’s moved regularly so the birds have fresh area to forage all the time."


Niman Ranch – Pork

"These pigs look great. They’re evenly sized, and they’re the right breed for the system. Their darker skins protect them against sunburn and they have their tails. What I especially like here is seeing the Quonset huts, which are used for gestation and farrowing (having piglets!). It looks like here each sow has her own individual hut, which is nice because they tend to isolate themselves and want to nest before they give birth.

The huts are also good because the sows can stay there with their piglets for the first week or two while the piglets grow past the age/size where they might get picked up by hawks or eagles. In a good system, farmers place the huts strategically with prevailing winds so the animals inside get the air flow they need. They insulate the huts, too, so they’re not little ovens when the sun is shining. Last thing: look at that great green pasture!"


Icelandic Lamb

"The pasture looks nice, but what I really notice here are the animals. They look great: they’re well-filled out, not dirty and no broken horns. This photo was shot during the annual roundup. The sheep are being moved by people on horseback, rather than ATV, which is noisier and can stress the animals. What’s cool about Icelandic lamb is the sheep only see people twice in their lives: when they go out to graze, and when they come back.

They don’t know people, and yet they’re walking calmly, not at all stressed. The riders know how to move sheep – they can make them run, walk, slow them down to a stop, etc – all without a word. Sheep are a prey species (their first inclination is to run and get away from bigger animals), but these riders are using “points of balance” to silently urge the sheep in any direction, at any pace, just by showing up at a specific point in the sheep’s fields of vision."

Our selection of meat and poultry is renowned for great taste and superior quality. We believe this has a lot to do with the care that goes into raising the animals and the true partnerships we develop with the farmers and ranchers that supply our stores.

Find out more about our animal welfare standards at: wholefoodsmarket.com/animalwelfare.

Do you have any questions about our standards? Ask us in the comments below.

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Maria Diecidue says …

I stop eating meet some weeks ago after finding out the horrible way that most of the farms treat animals. This morning I started searching a place where I can still buy eggs and milk, (since my family refused to become vegan!) and I found you guys!! This is great news. I will stop today at one of your store. Thank you so much for support the good farmers!

Marc Garcia says …

Thank you for choosing farms that allow animals to live as nature intended as opposed to the horrendous conditions of factory farms. I absolutely love Whole Foods.

Judi Brennick says …

I will probably stay vegetarian, but may occasionally treat myself to some meat/poultry, etc: from Whole Foods. Thank you for sharing with us the humane way that the animals are treated. I don't think most people know/or want to know how their food comes to their table. Again, thanks for letting the consumer know some behind the scenes action.

Stephanie Quarton says …

Thank you for this information. I also looked further at these individual ranches. I will never buy meat anywhere but Whole Foods again.

Harriett says …

Please stay on the side of the consumer, keep us informed about non-GMO products too. Consumers need trust, don't ever let us down!

Tammy Cirillo says …

I actually have a question - I appreciate all that is being done with regards to the well-being of the animals, but is there any kind of standard for the processing of the animals? I would hate to see the standards end when they are shipped out. Any info would be nice.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@TAMMY - All the poultry and meat we sell in our meat departments must meet Whole Foods Market’s benchmark standards of being raised with no antibiotics or added growth hormones, and fed a diet with no animal by-products. We also require all slaughter facilities to successfully pass annual third party audits of their animal welfare and food safety practices.

Leni says …

I've stopped buying meat and eggs out of concern for after animal welfare. Can you provide more information about how the animals are slaughtered, and whether male chicks are all killed please? Thanks.

Jennifer says …

I REALLY appreciate Whole Foods supporting natural farms. I became a vegetarian about 4 years ago because I learned a lot about factory farming in college. I would rather pay up to support a family or farm raising animals naturally-- but @Tammy, I agree with you in hoping the standards are strictly enforced when the animals are sent out of the farm. @ Nikki, thanks for the info! I hope Whole Foods keeps up the good work!

Paul says …

I am so happy to learn of these practices that Whole Foods has implemented. I nearly cried. I would like to know more about how the animals are put down though. Are the methods done as kindly as possible or are the animals sent off to a slaughterhouse that has no regard for them and kills them violently? I understand they are going to be put down regardless, but there are different ways to do it.

K.E. says …

I notice a few comments related to slaughter. As an independent researcher in farm animal welfare, with a focus on this topic, (I recently presented "Humane Slaughter" at Zingerman's Camp Bacon IV) I'm happy to maybe help a little. I've been following the development of Global Animal Partnership's (GAP) 5-Step program since 2010 and it's great that they've made it past their Whole Foods pilot phase, successfully rolling out their protocols and moving on to Phase 3, which is slated to address slaughter as one of its concerns. Here's the web address for GAP for that information: http://www.globalanimalpartnership.org/the-5-step-program/our-process/

Jennifer Roystone says …

Thank you for making the CHOICE that we all have - to try to live in a compassionate way. I will NOT buy foods from any company that treats nature, animals, or people as nothing but a vehicle for getting financially rich. Many people do not know that mass produced meat comes from animals that were HORRIBLY tortured their entire lives and are made to live in appalling conditions. The only reason for this is GREED and MONEY. I don't think that people with a conscience would put that "food" into their bodies or their loved ones bodies. I will HAPPILY pay more for food products that support companies that care for the welfare of all beings. I know that my money is going towards not only my good health and the health of my loved ones, but of this beautiful earth and all its creatures that deserve to be treated as the gifts that they are. Thank you Whole Foods for standing apart and standing up!

Grace christophersen says …

When will Icelandic lamb be available at the Westlake or Bellevue stores?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@GRACE - The exact ETA will differ between stores so check with the exact store you plan to shop with to see when it will be arriving.