We’re idealists, we admit it! Our values drive what we do every day at Whole Foods Market and sometimes we have a special project that hits on multiple facets of our ideals. Such is the case with our most recent Local Producer Loan Program recipient, Thompson Farms Smokehouse.
We started the Local Producer Loan Program in 2006 with the goal of providing low interest loans to help local farmers and producers grow their businesses. With Thompson Farms, not only are we helping them expand their business with a loan, but we are also potentially helping them increase their 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating — another critical endeavor at Whole Foods Market.
The Thompson family has farmed in Dixie, Georgia for over 75 years, and today are one of the producers who help us attain our goal of carrying only the highest quality pork in our stores. If you are familiar with the 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating Standards, Thompson Farms currently rates at an impressive Step 4, which means their pigs live continuously on pasture or outdoor foraging areas. The hogs raise their piglets in huts where they have wallows (otherwise known as “mud holes”), stroll through green grass and are treated gently by their caregiver with whom they are familiar.
Sounds pretty great, right? Well, with the proceeds of their loan, the father and son team at Thompson Farms will take it a step further by building a processing facility on site, which is one of the requirements to achieve Step 5+. If they are successful in this endeavor, they will be the first ever pork producer to reach this high standard! In fact, it’s the highest level possible within Global Animal Partnership’s Animal Welfare Rating system. At Step 5+, the hogs cannot be transported at all, which can cause stress to the animal. All piglets must be born and raised on the farm where they will spend their entire lives with their littermates, doing exactly what pigs are supposed to do.
I love working on the Local Producer Loan Program because I believe in supporting small entrepreneurs who have passion for their craft and produce some of our highest quality products. What an honor to work on a Local Producer Loan that combines our commitment to local products with our dedication to animal welfare.
To learn more about Thompson Farms, check out this slide show!