Animal Welfare Basics

Helping you make informed choices about the meat you eat.

Our meat departments are stocked with an incredible selection of meat and poultry from farmers and ranchers dedicated to meeting our strict Animal Welfare Standards. Before we do any purchasing, we know exactly how the animal was raised, what it ate and where it came from. And, we’ve done the research to give you the most responsibly raised selection of meat and poultry around.


In the early 1980s we prohibited the use of antibiotics to prevent disease because we believe that good management practices are a better way to maintain animal health. In 2002 we deepened our standards to also prohibit antibiotic use in treating disease or infection. To ensure that animals do not suffer, we require that they be given medication if needed, but those animals cannot be sold to Whole Foods Market®.

Hormones & Growth Promotants

Our quality standards prohibit the administration of hormones to farm and ranch animals, including beef cattle and sheep (the only two species for which the USDA permits the use of hormones). Beta agonists (used to enhance growth and develop lean muscle tissue in livestock) such as Zilmax and ractopamine are also prohibited. This means no growth-enhancing drugs. No way, no how!

Farm Animal & Meat Quality Standards

From basic principles of production to food safety audits, we hold our meat producers to a higher standard — championing innovative production systems that ensure the quality and the safety of the meat we sell. In order to meet our strict Farm Animal and Meat Quality Standards, we require 3rd-party audits of each producer’s raising and handling practices, feed, facility design, environmental conditions, employee training and animal welfare at the farm, in transportation and throughout processing.

Animal Welfare

We have a strong focus on animal welfare with standards for all species of animals raised for our meat department. In addition to species-specific standards, we have general animal welfare standards that include ensuring animals have space to perform their normal behavior and that prohibit confinement or tethering that inhibits freedom of movement. In 2002 we worked with world-renowned scientist and animal-welfare expert Dr. Temple Grandin to ensure animal welfare from the time the animals leave the truck through slaughter.

Plus! The 5-Step® Animal Welfare Rating

We work with the Global Animal Partnership to rate our beef, pork, chicken and turkey producers' animal welfare practices. We've rolled out their 5-Step® Animal Welfare Rating in every Whole Foods Market store in the United States and Canada.