Farm Animal & Meat Quality Standards

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Whole Foods Market has long worked with our meat producers to develop innovative production systems that ensure the quality and the safety of the meat we sell. At the same time, we have taken into account the comfort, physical safety and health of the animals.  Not only are the poultry and meat we sell raised without antibiotics or added growth hormones*, but we require producers to verify that their meat and poultry production practices meet our requirements.

An annual application is required from each supplier that provides information about raising practices. Additionally since 2002, every slaughter plant that processes our meat is required to successfully complete an annual 3rd party audit that monitors animal welfare and food safety.    

The criteria for the animal welfare audit was originally developed by world renowned animal welfare and facility design expert, Dr. Temple Grandin. Over the years, Whole Foods Market has driven continual improvement and this has resulted in increasingly stringent audit requirements.  These audits also include an assessment of food safety and compliance with the Food and Drug Administration’s Good Manufacturing Practices within the plant.

Basic Principles of Production

To be eligible to sell meat, meat products or products that contain meat at Whole Foods Market, each farmer or rancher must first meet the following criteria:

  • Animals must not receive antibiotics, ever.
    • Sick animals must receive treatment, but antibiotic-treated animals must not be sold to Whole Foods Market.
  • No animal by-products are allowed in feed, including feather meal or rendered fat.
  • Animals raised for meat must not receive added hormones. (Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones when raising pigs, poultry, bison, goats, or rabbits.)
  • For ruminants, time in a feedlot cannot be more than one-third of the animal’s life.
  • No crates, cages or tethers are permitted.  This includes, but is not limited to:
    • Gestation crates and farrowing stalls for sows
    • Individual hutches or tethers for veal calves
  • Cattle, pigs, chickens and turkeys sold in our fresh meat counter must be certified to the Global Animal Partnership 5-Step® Animal Welfare Rating.

Every supplier we work with must provide verification of:

  • A clear traceability audit system that tracks herds or flocks from each farm through slaughter.
  • A comprehensive recall program.
  • Full disclosure of management practices and feed rations.
  • A robust internal audit program to monitor compliance with Whole Foods Market standards, with governmental regulations and with their own internal protocols.

3rd Party Animal Welfare & Food Safety Good Manufacturing Practices Audits

Mandatory 3rd party audit of animal welfare at slaughter plants, developed by animal welfare expert Dr. Temple Grandin, are required.  Areas of evaluation include:

  • Condition of animals upon arrival
  • Calm, efficient unloading procedures
  • Animals handled with patience, skill and respect
  • Well-designed and maintained facility ensuring quiet movement of the animals
  • Non-slip flooring and ramps to reduce the risk of injury
  • Critical stunning efficacy requirements
    • 99% successful stun at first attempt
    • 100% of animals unconscious before slaughter
  • Proper condition and upkeep, plus regular testing of all equipment

Mandatory 3rd party food safety audit of slaughter and fabrication facility are required. Areas of evaluation include:

  • Cleanliness of external areas
  • Slaughter/fabrication facilities and equipment
  • Slaughtering and fabrication practices
  • Coolers/freezers/chilled transport
  • Rodent and insect control
  • Personal hygiene
  • Sanitation
  • Condition and cleanliness of staff areas
  • Documentation

So, from farm to your table, we take the extra steps to ensure the meat we sell is from animals raised to our standards, that transport is monitored, that slaughter is conducted according to clear animal welfare standards and that all meat products are processed in facilities audited for food safety.

*Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones in raising pigs, poultry, goats, veal and bison.