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Our meat: No antibiotics, EVER!

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.

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54 comments

Comments

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.

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!

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. :-(

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!

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!

Megs says …

Very cool article! Maybe I missed it, but does this carry over to your prepared foods too?

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/

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.

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.

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?

screwdestiny says …

I like that you explain why antibiotic-free meat is more expensive. I think it's worth it as well.

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.

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.

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!

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?

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.

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!

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".

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!!

Juanita Floyd says …

Hi, New to your store and I was wondering if you sell locally raised Bison??

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!

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!

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.

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.

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!

Patricia Dzur says …

Who can one write to help change our government's current policys that encourage over production of corn to feed...lots and other redesigned foods... The Government recognizes the potential monopoly of Google operating inside or outside of author copywrite laws but allows Monsanto to bully small farmers that wash seed out of business. Government Ag policy's may not be in the peoples best interests only big business best interests.

Willene Edgar says …

I am thankful to know that your store has only meat with no anitbotics. Because of my health problems I am very careful the meat I eat. It stands to reason if a farmer lets his animals be raised without antibiotics he would have a healthier animal. Why give antibiotics to an animal or human when there is nothing wrong health wise with either. Antibiotica are to help cure a problem not create one.

Jennifer W. says …

:) Do you know when that will be airing this week? I will try to catch it online, and hopefully I remember to look it up again for that news report. I really want to start getting more of the healthier choices, including meat, at health stores. I don't want to have to compromise b/c of price, but sometimes it's hard. It seems like whole chickens are a good start w/o all the antibiotics, etc. I do notice a difference in their size too at the supermarket (crazy), price is a bit higher too, but it's well worth the change. I will be moving to Waco, TX though where you all are not located, but I did look up local farms and I am excited to see that maybe it won't be so bad :)

Debra says …

Hi--no antibiotics is fine but does that guarantee that the animals are being raised humanely? I'm more concerned about that. They're alreayd donating their lives to us, the least we can do is raise and slaughter them humanely.

Elizabeth says …

Does this mean there is no sodium nitrate in your meats? Also, I noticed how CLEAN the deli is at Whole Foods store. This is a concern of mine as well. Maintaining cleanliness and concern for food safety. Thanks for setting a high standard - above and beyond what is required by the state health board.

says …

There is no sodium nitrate in our meats; it is an unacceptable ingredient to our quality standards. Thanks for compliments on our cleanliness; we'll strive to keep it that way!

Dee Ohm says …

We have been buying your meat for some time and think the no antibiotics is great now go the extra mile and give us grass fed animal meat as well. Cows are not intended to be raised on corn and held in tight pens until they are slaughtered. You are doing something worthwhile but it is not all you can do for our health and our planet....Thank you,

Alli says …

Yes, I am curious about Whole Foods policies regarding humanely raised meat. Does Whole Foods have guidelines about what type of meat they will sell in the store? Do you supply from farms that use humane practices and allow animals to be free-range? It is great to buy veg/grass fed meat with no antibiotics, but if the animals are cooped up in small confines and never see the light of day, I'm not sure I want to eat it. If a package of meat does not say "free range" is it assumed the animals are treated much like in the big factory farms? I am trying to be more conscientious about my purchases.

Susan says …

You have to read the labels even at Whole Foods very carefully. Free range meats are labeled as such--and they really don't carry that many--and they're EXPENSIVE. The 6 oz. of turkey meat I bought last week ran at $16 a pound. Note that the sign in the meat cases say chickens are "barn roaming." I'm wondering what this means. Are they free to move about in the barn or are they in cages like other big meat producers? If animals are grass-roaming, range-roaming, they have signs by it and you'll pay a lot for it. Otherwise, I'd like more information on how the "barn roaming" animals are raised.

says …

@Susan, There is currently no clear regulatory definition of terms such as “free range” and "barn roaming". We expect our suppliers who use these types of claims on their products to use a reasonable definition and we expect the claims to be truthful. We understand that many of our shoppers seek products raised under more clearly defined conditions, and we encourage those shoppers to choose organic. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Standards, all organic livestock are required to have access to the outdoors, shade, shelter, exercise areas, fresh air, and direct sunlight suitable to the species, the climate, and the environment. All organic producers are certified by a USDA-accredited certifying agent. To learn more about meat and poultry labeling terms please visit: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/PDF/Meat_and_Poultry_Labeling_Terms.pdf Thanks!

Toby says …

I'd really appreciate an answer from WF about the humane aspect that so myself and so many others have asked about. Until I know for sure I will NOT buy ANYTHING from Whole Foods. It was days ago that I posted my questions, I thought surely there'd be an answer by now. C'mon WF!!!!

Paul T. Soule says …

Folks, it's a simple equation that we have strayed from since industrialization and farm subsidies. The sum of the equation is that you must reacquaint yourselves with your local farmers. Go to go to the secondary source (the farmer) they will re-involve you with the primary source of clean, real food - the Sun. This is not as crazy as it sounds, for two reasons. First of all - the only sources of real food are products of the shortest chain between the Sun and your stomach. If you eat foods fresh from the garden that are not exposed to pesticides and herbicides, you have created the healthiest nutritional situation for yourself (the shortest chain). Secondly, the next situation involves the growth of your meat. Eat Ruminant. Ruminants are 4 stomach animals that are genetically and physiologically designed to digest grasses (not corn). Cattle, goats, sheep, buffalo and deer are all examples of Ruminants. Sure, eating chicken and pork is great, if they are fed a diet that is consistent with their natural biological needs and of equal or greater importance – is their living and processing conditions. Almost all of these animals that are available through conventional sources are raised in CAFO’s (concentrated animal feed operations). Regardless of whether these animals are fed organically or not - the animals are unclean with a high probability of being unhealthy (by way of living conditions, slaughter and further processing). The condition of individual meat producing animals can be deplorable in ways that are not measured by regulatory agencies, which brings me to my next point. The process, the entire process has to be holistic – from the soil that grows the grasses and vegetables to the dinner table. No matter how pure or pristine the raw materials are . . . you simply can not expose true quality to an inferior or tainted processing and distribution system. At very best this system jeopardizes the quality of the finished product, and at worst – has become completely tainted that which is processed. The viewpoints that I’ve shared are not from a purely philosophical perspective . . . I farm . . not monoculture . . . I raise animals, fruits and vegetables – for people who have come to expect more from their food. I grow it to produce qualities that they can not find from conventional food source. We have a free flowing exchange of my commitment . . . and their involvement. Which brings us back to my original point, the most important step that anyone can take is to - get involved, please involve yourself with food that does not have a bar code. Get to know your farmers and let them know in no uncertain terms that if they grow food with integrity - you will buy it from them. This insures the future of clean, identifiable food sources, that employ sustainable agricultural practices. All the best. Paul ptsoule461@sbcglobal.net

brian white says …

Can I get grass-fed bison at whole foods? Thanks, Brian

says …

Our product selection varies from store to store, so please check in with your local store directly. Thanks! http://bit.ly/allstore

DaveRussell says …

This is all well and good but we, the Whole Foods shopper, place tremendous faith in Whole Foods keeping vigilant continually verifying that their suppliers/farmers/ranchers stay honest. For these suppliers to follow Whole Foods guidelines is significant [added] effort compared to the non-organic easy-money way, and knowing human nature the temptation for easy money at less effort is great. I pay the added price for the Whole Foods assurance, and if that assurance falters I cannot in return assure Whole Foods my continued patronage. I realize that this is a bit of an affront and I apologize, but sometimes it is best to risk offending in order to preempt complacency and thus avoid what is a real possibility. Thanks

Sharrann Simmons says …

Dear whole Foods, One of the comments on your meat article refers to CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) as being "one of those EVIL saturated fats!"(posted by "RC the radical chicken" - Feb 2010). This is just not true... CLA is naturally found in ruminant animals (i.e. cows, goats) and full fat dairy products. Unlike many "bad" fats (think trans fats), CLA is definitely one of the "good" fats. There are over 18 human clinical trials showing the benfits of CLA in healthy body composition and reducing body fat. CLA has achieved the status of GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) from the FDA, which confirms the safety of this ingredient. Whole Foods is on the right track is focusing on grass-fed cows, since grass feeding actually produces more CLA, which is better for the cow and for humans. Also, Whole Foods has chosen to market CLA as a dietary supplement under several different brands, typically as an oil in a softgel. Best Regards, Sharrann Simmnons

Anna says …

I prefer to buy organic grass-fed beef and bison and free range chicken from Whole Foods because I do NOT trust Tyson, Perdue, etc. They are part of the factory farming problem, and are probably adding arsenic to chicken feed, pumping animals with steroids, growth hormomes, etc., even if the label says "anti-biotic-free". I was recently diagnosed as hypothyroid,and must avoid non-organic, non-grass fed products as the drugs and gmo feed given to the animals are potent endocrine (thyroid) disrupters. I applaud WHole Foods for offering such options. Also, not everyone thrives on a vegetarian or vegan diet. I didn't eat meat for years, had plenty of veggies, fruits, grains and green juices and smoothies, yet I was always sickly. Turns out that raw cruciferous veggies suppress the thyroid gland, and I have allergies to most grains. I am thankful that Whole Foods offers a wide variety of organic and GMO foods to accomodate all diets, whether vegatarian, vegan or omnivore.

justin drew bieber says …

i think w eneed whole grain foods r very important tody in this sick world

Donna says …

I love your store. My husband and I have recently discovered Bison meat. It is healthy for you and even tastier than beef. We come to Whole Foods to buy it. Can you tell me what supplier you use? I would like to look them up to feel 100 percent sure of it's origin.

Bepkom says …

@Donna: Our suppliers are different throughout the country. Please ask a Team Member behind the meat counter at the store where you shop. Thanks!

sarah says …

I loved your article and was just wondering;Is all the meat Whole Foods sells antibiotics free or just the organic meat?

Bobby H says …

Our standards for meat are no added hormones* and no antibiotics. We believe in great-tasting meat from healthy animals. You can learn more about our meat by clicking here: http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/meat/ *Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones in raising pork, poultry, goat, veal and bison.

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Mom of five says …

Lets see it is now 2012 and it has new superbug from antibiotics in chickens causing bladder infections that are antibiotic resistant. I glad I have been buying whole foods chicken for five years and to me it is work the extra. My son is almost five he just had his fist cold I refused antibiotics he has never had them and and he is healthier for it he had a sore throat fever but I gave him makuna honey, pineapple, coconut milk and apples tylenol and he is better and antibiotic free. breastfeed him til he was three only at bedtime after two. He has a great immune system. My chop peditrician has never seen a child go this long without a cold. stick with natural god gave us everything we need in natural food etc. breast cancer and leukemia drugs come from the rainforest. just look around we dont need all these big pharmaceauticals push on us.

Dollie says …

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