Whole Story

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Our meat: No antibiotics, EVER!

By Theo Weening, February 10, 2010  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Theo Weening

Piglets Exploring

This week, the CBS Evening News is airing a two-part story on antibiotics in food, the result of a three-month investigation by Katie Couric. It’s a story worth watching. Couric raises many concerns about the practice of giving antibiotics to food animals, primarily the worry that this practice may lead to antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria that can put human health at risk. As the national meat buyer for Whole Foods Market, I can assure our customers that our standard is: No antibiotics, EVER! We work very hard to make sure that the people who produce our meat have raised their animals without the use of antibiotics, growth hormones* or animal byproducts in the feed. According to Couric, for the past 60 years antibiotics have been used to create efficiencies in meat production.  Antibiotics are added to the animals’ feed or water to prevent infection that can occur when animals are crowded in confined areas.  As well, antibiotics given in this manner promote rapid growth. For instance, conventionally raised cattle are ready for market in about 16 to 17 months, while cattle raised without antibiotics don’t leave the farm until they’re 20 to 24 months old. The extended growth period is a more expensive prospect for a farmer or rancher, but one we feel is well worth it. At Whole Foods Market, finding farmers who go the extra mile and raise their animals without depending on antibiotics is simply what we do. We visit farms and ranches, meeting with the farmers to make sure they meet our standards. kochturkeys__383I hear that two producers who have been working with Whole Foods Market for more than 15 years will be featured in the second part of Couric’s report.  We are pleased to partner with innovative farmers who have been raising animals without using antibiotics for many years, like Paul Willis of Niman Ranch and Duane Koch of the Koch Turkey Farm. Personally, I think you can taste the difference in our meat.  But don’t take it from me – try it yourself! Come by your local Whole Foods Market and ask our in-store butchers about our meat – the best-tasting beef, pork, and poultry you’ll find in a grocery store! *Federal regulations prohibit the use of growth hormones in raising pigs, veal calves, bison and poultry.
Category: Food Issues




RC the radical chicken says ...
I thought you guys were pushing the politically correct low-fat, low meat diet (in your "Health Starts Here" pamphlet)? If so, why bother worrying about antibiotics in your meat -- just chuck meat from your shelves altogether. By the time your clientele follows your advice they'll be in too much of a brain fog to notice anyway. By the way, I saw your post cheering the new pasture rules for organic meat. Why do you care? You're encouraging your clientele to throw away the healthy fats! People, follow Whole Foods' advice and you can forget about the benefits of CLA (one of those EVIL saturated fats!) and the positive omega 3/omega 6 balance found in the fats of pasture raised livestock. And one more thing. Just because a cow has 75% of its diet in grass, doesn't mean you've rid the animal of the acidosis that comes with grain feeding. It would be like me feeding 25% of my children's diets in refined sugar and expecting them to maintain a healthy gut flora. Aint happenin'. Introducing high energy concentrates into the diet changes the pH of the gut and changes the microbiotic flora of the animal. Healthy rumen bacteria will not survive in that environment and the "pasture component" becomes nothing more than bypass fiber in the diet. You lose the benefit of pasture feeding altogether. Whole Food's stance on healthy pasture-raised butter, milk, fat, etc. exposes your duplicity. What about the Inuit "eskimo's" whose diet was mostly saturated fat in the form of blubber. Were they dying of obesity and heart disease. No. How about those people in the Swiss alps whose diet included a large percentage of dairy fats from all-grass fed animals? It's not the fat that kills, but the reckless advice of USDA in the form of a "food pyramid." Advice that Whole Foods has endorsed.
02/15/2010 9:36:16 AM CST
Leah says ...
My family started shopping at Whole Foods only now. The meats are wonderful. I grew up on a farm and its just like back in my childhood. Fruits, Vegitables, and meats are full of color and flavor! We love you all for the dedication you have at Whole Foods!
02/13/2010 12:36:40 AM CST
Deb says ...
I am glad to see that Whole Foods has such high standards for its meat sources. I like having pasture-fed meats available to us. Given that this has been important to Whole Foods, I have to ask what is up with the "Health Starts Here" campaign, which appears to be heavily pushing a low-fat vegetable-based diet, as described on your own website: http://wholefoodsmarket.com/pressroom/blog/2010/01/20/health-starts-here%E2%84%A2-launches-at-whole-foods-market%C2%AE/ I'm even more incredulous since I purchased our family's well-used copy of Nourishing Traditions at Whole Foods. I've already had a hard time getting the slightly-off-the-beaten-path supplements I need at Whole Foods any more - GABA isn't really *that* exotic, folks! - but this flies in the face of everything I've learned about food and cooking and eating since I became a parent. When we started preparing our foods a la Nourishing Traditions, our health got much better, we got sick much much less, and we found we liked cooking and eating from scratch, which in turn has saved us money food shopping as well as in doctor's office co-pays. Again, I'm glad you make this meat available to us, but why guide your shoppers AWAY from meat and animal products in general, especially when it flies in the face of a HUGE amount of research to the contrary?!? This isn't the way to keep the loyal customers who've trusted you for years for high-quality food and advice, but it IS a good way to get us all to explore other local options for organic foods, both vegetable- and animal-based. That would be short-sighted of Whole Foods. :-(
02/12/2010 2:48:27 PM CST
Cosette says ...
Thank you for having such a high standard. I love shopping at your store and feeling completely safe buying any meat product there - no checking dates, reading labels, looking up where it came from, just WONDERFUL meat. It's also great knowing that my daughter doesn't have tons of antibiotics in her system so she can have a good start in life!
02/10/2010 2:06:42 PM CST
Jim Purdy says ...
I often shop for wild salmon at my local Whole Foods Market here in Tulsa, but I wasn't even aware of the no antibiotics policy. Thanks for the information!
02/10/2010 2:40:16 PM CST
Megs says ...
Very cool article! Maybe I missed it, but does this carry over to your prepared foods too?
02/10/2010 1:15:55 PM CST
Fair Trade says ...
'... the worry that this practice may lead to antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria that can put human health at risk' I'd say 'will' rather than 'may'... http://ecolocalizer.com/2009/12/31/antibiotic-resistant-genes-increasing-in-soil-microbes/
02/10/2010 11:24:40 AM CST
hcfresh says ...
This is a very important issue for the livestock and meat industry. Not only must we provide our customers with products that taste great and are easy to prepare, but we must also work to ensure that these products are nutritious and healthy. Companies like Whole Foods are leading the way towards an industry that is more sustainable: ecologically, economically and from a health perspective.
02/10/2010 11:33:22 AM CST
Natural Grocers says ...
This is a very important issue, and we are happy to agree with Whole Foods in supporting a new "naturally raised" standard for meats that have never ever been given antibiotics, hormones, or GMO feed. The next step is to focus on grass-fed meats, which are higher in key nutrients and have environmental benefits. The USDA FSIS is currently reveiwing the "naturally raised" label claim in this regard, but with a very watered down approach. Currently, USDA "all natural" meats simply mean nothing was added AFTER slaughter -- but antibiotics, hormones, GMO feed, and other substances can still be administered right up to the last day the animal is alive. We have asked the USDA to correct the circa 1950 and mis-named "natural meat" marketing claim, and we would suggest the anyone else concerned with this issue send a note to your congressional reps to bring the issue to their attention.
02/10/2010 11:47:20 AM CST
Casey says ...
I think it's great that Whole Foods has so many standards set in place. However, after watching Food, Inc. I wonder about the diet fed to the cows. I know the beef is already superior to the quality of beef in the regular grocery store, but is your beef also only grain fed or is corn incorporated into their diet as well?
02/10/2010 5:07:36 PM CST
screwdestiny says ...
I like that you explain why antibiotic-free meat is more expensive. I think it's worth it as well.
02/10/2010 7:24:11 PM CST
hsiaw says ...
Hi Megs, Meat used in our Prepared Foods department follows the same guidelines as the meat sold in our Meat department. This means that the animals have been raised without the use of antibiotics, growth hormones or animal byproducts in the feed.
02/10/2010 2:00:03 PM CST
hsiaw says ...
Hi Casey, Thank you for being a conscientious shopper and sharing your concerns with us. The Meat departments in our stores offer options when it comes to our beef, including the animal's diet. For your needs, you may want to look for our grass fed varieties, which are defined by the USDA as: Grass (Forage) Fed – Grass and forage shall be the feed source consumed for the lifetime of the ruminant animal, with the exception of milk consumed prior to weaning. The diet shall be derived solely from forage consisting of grass (annual and perennial), forbs (e.g., legumes, Brassica), browse, or cereal grain crops in the vegetative (pre-grain) state. Animals cannot be fed grain or grain byproducts and must have continuous access to pasture during the growing season. Hay, haylage, baleage, silage, crop residue without grain, and other roughage sources may also be included as acceptable feed sources. Routine mineral and vitamin supplementation may also be included in the feeding regimen. If incidental supplementation occurs due to inadvertent exposure to non-forage feedstuffs or to ensure the animal’s well being at all times during adverse environmental or physical conditions, the producer must fully document (e.g., receipts, ingredients, and tear tags) the supplementation that occurs including the amount, the frequency, and the supplements provided. Thanks and hope that answers your question.
02/10/2010 6:44:58 PM CST
Cathie says ...
As usual, WF is on the cutting edge of dispensing information, and research on how we can all be more aware and in control of what we choose to buy to feed our families. I have seen the difference first hand as a mom of two football boys - when in highschool I worked hard to feed them copious amounts of protein to build their muscles and stamina. Quality meats from WF were the staple of their diets - many of my friends purchased lesser quality meats at big box stores - kids were sick more, didnt' eat as much (taste was diminshed) and asked to come to my house for spaghetti and MEATballs! Now grown young men, my "boys" continue to purchase meat at WF, keeping the family tradition alive by choosing healthy eating. Thank you WF!
02/16/2010 10:11:20 AM CST
tina says ...
According to your comment re:"Federal Regulations" at the end of your story, So are you saying beef is the only animal federally allowed to use growth hormones on?
02/17/2010 6:46:29 PM CST
Tim says ...
I am so against antibiotic use in animals. I support those who are doing what is best for everyone not just the almighty dollar. Our health is a great concern. Too many antibiotics make our bodies out of line with the way nature intended.
02/17/2010 7:25:04 PM CST
Cindy says ...
I used to shop at Whole Foods 20 years ago when I was in college. Thankfully I can afford more than I could then.... It's amazing to see Whole Foods grow from the original little quirky store that it was on S. Lamar to this Global Giant that it is today. Keep up the great work!
02/17/2010 8:18:41 PM CST
Christine says ...
Its good that Whole Foods is aware of and concerned with the health risks when consuming meats from animals that have been treated with antibiotics and hormones. I wish more people would take a more active role in their own health and do a little research of their own. There is one more point to consider, and that is the grains that are being fed to the animals. When grains are harvested they are typically stored in silos and tend to mold (mold created mycotoxins). When grains are processed and sold for human consumption, they are "cleaned" and must pass an FDA screening for a highly toxic and carcinogenic mycotoxin called aflatoxin. The grains which test positive for aflatoxin are rejected for human use and are then shipped to feed lots for animal consumption. The aflatoxins end up on our plate in the long run, along with any chemicals and pesticides used on the grains and/or grass & hay. Just more "food for thought".
02/18/2010 6:37:18 AM CST
Terri says ...
WF please forgive my ignorance: Are you saying that the difference between ORGANIC at WF and the other meat in the case is what the cow is fed? What exactly do they feed the non-organic cows? wouln't that be corn to make the cow grow faster, without using growth hormones and harmful antibiotics? I am a new convert..Thanks!!
02/18/2010 8:19:37 AM CST
Juanita Floyd says ...
Hi, New to your store and I was wondering if you sell locally raised Bison??
02/18/2010 8:22:44 AM CST
becky says ...
I watched a documentary the other day that is pretty life changing, Food Inc., this made you think about all foods that we eat. I was wondering if Whole Foods meat is grass fed? After watching this movie, now you know why there are so many diseases. I want to eat good wholesome foods and meats!
02/18/2010 8:36:10 AM CST
Jennifer Gray says ...
What about hormones? Does any of the meat contain those? I didn't see anything about hormones on the standards outline. Thanks!
02/18/2010 8:48:52 AM CST
Jennifer says ...
I love Whole Foods salmon and beef. I haven't had a chance to try much more than that in the meat dept. The beef is so amazing tasing and tender without even doing anything to it. I made burgers from the grass-fed beef and fell in love. Great job Whole Foods please keep up the good work.
02/18/2010 9:11:57 AM CST
Danielle Solecki says ...
Your photo entitled "Piglets Exploring" is adorable. It disgusts me to think that anyone would kill and eat them. Regarding antibiotics, etc. in our meat supply, if one doesn't eat meat, then one would not have to worry about such practices.
02/18/2010 9:15:55 AM CST
Toby says ...
I appreciate your stating that Whole Foods doesn't use antibiotics and growth hormones. Is the meat sold at Whole Foods also from sustainable farms ie Polyface Farm in VA? Also, are the animals humanely raised and slaughtered? Are they from factory farms? I'm seeing more and more about these things and would like to know more about the meat I buy from WF. Thanks!
02/18/2010 9:19:23 AM CST