Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

What Makes Our Meat Different

By Theo Weening, February 10, 2011  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Theo Weening

The more you know about our meat, the better. That’s just the bottom line around here. Our standards require no added hormones* and no antibiotics, ever. Our true partnerships with farmers and ranchers allow us to offer the highest quality, local and organic choices. And with leading animal welfare standards we’re encouraging a human approach to raising animals. Ultimately, we believe in great-tasting meat from healthy animals. Watch these videos to learn more. This one highlights what makes our meat different:

And you can learn about the animal welfare standards we’ve adopted for our beef, pork and chicken:

Intrigued? Visit the meat pages of our website to find out why the more you know about our meat, the better.

* Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones in raising pork, poultry, goat, veal and bison.
Category: Meat, Animal Welfare




SusieBeeOnMaui (Eat Little, Eat Big) says ...
I love the air chilled chicken at our local WF store. And the ground bison-when I can get it-it sells out quickly!
02/11/2011 12:48:49 PM CST
LANI says ...
Wow, what a great idea ... calling it the Step by Step way sounds so inclusive and nonthreatening to Farmers. Thanks!!
02/16/2011 5:11:55 PM CST
Kelly Genzlinger says ...
Hi Whole Foods, Hallelujah! This is a fantastic system, and I am so happy that a big player in the health food market has taken this step to bring back into farming the laws of nature that not only protect the welfare of the animals and their humane treatment and care - but the nutritional balance (including nutrient profile, density, and ratios) that comes from pasture-based animal foods. I frequent Whole Foods each week, spending probably $1000 / month for our family of 5, but also belong to 4 local farm co/ops. Additionally, I am a holistic nutritional consultant (who would be a millionaire if I got kick backs from all the sales I have sent your way with my clients!) and I am now so happy to give my clients information on this rating system, allowing them to understand that they don't necessarily have to join a farm co/op to get highest quality animal foods. Thank-you for this monumental effort. I only hope you don't charge an arm and leg to the little local farmers (and neither do the independent auditors, I can only hope) to be part of the program/rating system. Again, and finally, this is the RIGHT thing to do for animal treatment, increasing nutrition for sick children and adults across this country, and to continue to put nails in the coffin of what I can only hope is a dying institution of factory farming. Kelly Genzlinger, CNC, CMTA www.FoodTherapeutics.com (under construction)
02/16/2011 5:46:54 PM CST
Ana says ...
I absolutely love this program. I've been buying all my meat at Whole Foods for the past five years and I was sometimes curious about what exactly the labels meant, but this is just wonderful. I was wondering though, can this also be somehow applied to animal products such as eggs and milk? I've bought Mary's chickens for years now but I always have so much trouble deciding what eggs to buy!
02/16/2011 5:59:30 PM CST
Ariane says ...
After recently watching Food, INC... This is very refreshing and further instills the confidence that I have in the whole foods brand. Seeing is believing and Im glad that Consumers have access to this information
02/16/2011 6:01:03 PM CST
Nzinga says ...
I'm glad to see that these animals are living life the way God intended. However I think there should be a step 6: Slaughtering the animals humanely (i.e no bullets to the head, no smashing the brains with a hammer, etc.)
02/16/2011 9:13:18 PM CST
Lydia Reilly says ...
Brining turkey sounds like a good way to keep it juicier, which is nice especially for white meat, but I'm wondering how much sodium it would add. I try to avoid salt. Thank you.
02/16/2011 9:43:19 PM CST
Jackie says ...
I've visited my local store, but they don't have any chicken over a level 2. Are higher levels coming our way?
02/16/2011 10:05:13 PM CST
Mark says ...
I am looking forward to the day when these steps will not be needed and all animals will be left alone and not bread and consumed simply to satisfy human's taste buds.
02/17/2011 6:27:29 AM CST
Kathy Ann Moilanen says ...
I'm so excited to see the improvements you are encouraging with animal care! The video and music made me smile:) However, one thing I noticed: The chickens in the video seem to have many balding spots, with skin exposed. Why is that?
02/17/2011 10:14:23 AM CST
bepkom says ...
@Kathy: It’s the way their feathers grow in. When chicks first come out of the egg, they covered in a down-type feather (picture those fluffy little chicks). As they mature, those feather fall out as the new feathers come in. There are several layers and types of feathers that grow in as the birds mature. When birds go to market they’re actually quiet young, so all of their feathers haven’t come in yet.
02/17/2011 10:15:58 AM CST
Mark says ...
Great idea -- may bring me back to eating some meat again after ten years of "abstinence" on behalf of animals -- congratulations GAP and WF on a great initiative -- will vote with my wallet!!
02/18/2011 10:50:15 AM CST
Melanie says ...
Do they eat genetically modified products? You don't mention that in your advertisement. How can I be assured that I am getting food that has not been contaminated with GMOs?
02/18/2011 11:29:23 AM CST
paig292 says ...
@Melanie You should choose for organic meats since USDA National Organic Standards prohibit feeding grains from GMO seed.
02/18/2011 1:21:59 PM CST
T Woods says ...
After watching Food Inc it is to see the clip about your step program for raising animals humanely, but we wonder, just where do you get your chicken, pig and cows processed and how is your processing any differnt than that for all the other markets. Would love to see a video on that.
02/21/2011 6:55:03 PM CST
JAT says ...
This is a great concept, and producers are willing to do it, but it is a HUGE cost for them. Are they being properly compensated for their extra work and investment?
02/22/2011 9:09:45 AM CST
bepkom says ...
@JAT: Thank you for recognizing the work that our producers put in to getting their STEP rated meat into our stores. One of our core values is to create a “win-win” with our producers. This includes ensuring a fair price.
02/22/2011 1:22:23 PM CST
bepkom says ...
@TWoods: Thank you so much for the question. No matter what the STEP rating, we require all our animals to be slaughtered humanely. One of the most crucial steps in this process is properly stunning the animal prior to death so they are unconscious and don’t feel anything. Every slaughter plant is audited each year for animal welfare as part of our Whole Foods Market requirements, and one of the core components is to check for proper stunning. I hope this answers your question and have a great day!
02/22/2011 1:23:00 PM CST
Brian Greel says ...
The program is great. The video, not-so-much. To be honest, farms that qualify for most of the steps below 4 won't look anything like the farms in the video. Paul Willis and Niman Ranch, for example, is used to illustrate step 1, showing pigs running around outside. But the truth is a lot of industrial farms with giant indoor barns that have access to a small patch of outdoor ground would still qualify. If most consumers visited these farms, they would not be very inspired to buy from them. The idyllic animals-running-around-on-pasture image that most of us get excited about seems to only happen if you hit step 4. So anything in the 1-3 categories really is not that different from confinement in many ways (obviously, they don't have antibiotics and other things, so that's good.) The video cleverly shies away from this fact. The labeling is a good move forward, but it needs to be clearly explained or it will just be another confusing addition to the already-cluttered amount of labels we currently have.
02/22/2011 3:38:22 PM CST
Tracy Timoteo says ...
Absolutely LOVE this innovation. I've been educating myself on what I've been putting in my body and buying organic has always been out of the way and expensive. And I've always associated Whole Foods with being expensive. But this is a project I want to support. The step 1 label is along ways away from what other competitors provide as quality. Your body is naturally meant to be lean. In order to be lean, it has to be clean. The toxins in non-organic and processed food is what makes you fat. As an animal lover and female trying to get lean I gladly support this revolution for REAL food.
02/23/2011 12:43:04 PM CST
bepkom says ...
@Brian: Sorry if you found the video confusing. Step 1 pigs are raised indoors however I’m sure you’ll agree they are raised very differently from pigs in a conventional system. Step 1 pigs are not tail docked or tooth clipped, they are raised in groups (no gestation or farrowing crates are allowed) and provided good quality bedding (conventional pigs spend their life on barren, slatted floors). With over 110 requirements for Step 1 farms we are sure you can appreciate that it is quite an achievement to be a Step-certified farm!
02/24/2011 6:34:42 PM CST
Becky West says ...
thank you whole foods for caring enough to have the standards that you do. i absolutely love your store, but can we please,please,please get one in New Hampshire somewhere. i have to travel such a distance to find a whole foods i don't get to go nearly enough. Maybe one in Manchester, concord, or even North Conway would be awesome! thanks again, Becky West
03/12/2011 9:07:08 AM CST
Jason says ...
I also agree with Nzinga's comment: where is STEP 6 regarding humane killing?
11/17/2011 10:15:53 AM CST