Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

Animal Welfare and Our Meat Department

ChickensI’m increasingly aware about my purchases at the meat counter. As a mother of two little ones, I’m concerned with how the animal was raised and what added hormones or antibiotics it was given (or better yet, what it wasn’t given).

Why buy meat from Whole Foods Market?

Whole Foods Market’s meat departments are stocked with only meat and poultry from farmers and ranchers dedicated to meeting strict standards, including:

  • no animal byproducts in the animal's feed
  • no added hormones*
  • no growth-enhancing drugs
  • no antibiotics, ever

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

These standards consider the animals:

  • how the animal was raised
  • what it ate
  • where it came from

Why animal welfare matters

5-Step Animal Welfare RatingAll the beef, chicken, pork and turkey in Whole Foods Market’s fresh meat cases in the US and Canada come from producers who have achieved certification to Global Animal Partnership’s 5-Step™ Animal Welfare Rating.

At Step 1, the first level in the program farmers and ranchers must focus intently on the welfare of their animals and meet approximately 100 species-specific standards. This first step is a clear departure from conventional animal agricultural practices. This certification is the clearest way for you to know how the animals were raised for the meat you’re buying.

It’s simple. Dedication to animal welfare at farms and ranches + quality standards and transparency in stores = informed choices about the meat you eat.

Want to know more? Dig deeper at wholefoodsmarket.com/animalwelfare.

What’s important to you when shopping for meat and poultry?

Blog Updated on 2/19/2015.

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73 comments

Comments

De says …

Whole Foods is the way to go! Good luck Kroger and Wal-Mart on your customer satisfaction, people will be leaving you soon!

Jackie says …

Whole foods, I'm curious how, specifically, animal welfare is guaranteed for these animals. As specific as possible please. You provide no details or evidence in this blog item...

Fran Williams says …

This is great. Will shop in your stores more often.

John C. Campbell III says …

With all this tracking about animal welfare, etc. , it seems you could include a GMO-free tag (animals not fed GMO corn, etc).

Charles says …

are your fresh meats considered gluten free?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@JACKIE - You can read more specifics about our Animal Welfare standards at http://wholefoodsmarket.com/animalwelfare.

Hank says …

Are your meat and poultry products better/safer than the same products at Sprouts Markets? I'm asking this because they(Sprouts) claim that their meat/poultry products are also all natural. Just curious....

Patti says …

How do we know the meats are also free of GMO's?

Kathy Katsarelis says …

I will only purchase meat from Whole Foods because I know that I am buying the healthiest, safest product on the market. It is important to me to consume meat that does not have any additives. I will never buy meat that is prepackaged at an industrial plant. I love how it is posted at the meat counter when my ground beef has been ground. You absolutely cannot get grass fed ground beef any fresher or of higher quality. I feel comforted with the total transparency Whole Foods conducts its business. I find Whole Foods prices to be in line with the industry. One cannot put a price tag on peace of mind or one’s health in making a decision as to where one does his/her grocery shopping. My husband is on a transplant list so nutrition is extremely important. I do not want to introduce any known carcinogens, i.e., pesticides, nitrates, to his diet. I have always been conscious of the quality of food I consume. When the term organic was first bantered about I was on-board. I sought out organic in the early days before Whole Foods. Whole Foods is my Nirvana. When I travel out of the area I always seek out a Whole Foods. It always amazes me how people on the east coast accept prepackaged vegetables. I could not live without a Whole Foods store.

Kris says …

We have tried to 'save a buck' and buy meats from our local supermarket, but we always go back to Whole Foods. The flavor is incomparable!

Gill says …

This 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating is new to me, so maybe someone can answer: how do we know where the meat is ranked based on the animal it came from? Sure Step 1 may be a "great accomplishment" compared to the rest of the meat industry, but what if that's not acceptable for some consumers? How do we find the meat that made it to Step 5+?

Stan Yarkin says …

What about cheese and other dairy?

Zenobia Hampton says …

I trust what whole foods says.. Any additional details may have been excessive as they already majorly dumbed down the massive details that this five step animal welfare rating encompasses for the purpose, I imagine, of making the information digestible comprehensible food for the masses.. whole foods market is all over the airwaves, could you imagine the legal backlash if they were making up these regulations? Maintaining and regulating these standards is costly hence the slightly higher price.. you are totally asking the wrong questions.. you should be wondering why this isn't the norm across the board.. Thank you whole foods market for educating us where these other wealthy corporations strive to keep us ignorant!

Barbara Clarke says …

I'm 77 and not as concerned about the products added to the animals/their foods. HOWEVER, I AM EXTREMELY CONCERNED FOR THE WELFARE OF THE ANIMALS. SUPPORTING AND BUYING ONLY FROM PRODUCERS THAT ABIDE BY SUPERIOR STANDARDS ENCOURAGES THIS TREATMENT FOR ALL ANIMALS. Thank you, Whole Foods. I only buy my meat from you!

edna london says …

Yes, but they are loaded with GMOs...GMOs cause tumors, cancer and all kinds of illness, get them out of your store.

Joyce Anderson says …

Does your meat conctain preservetives such as sulfites?

Cathy Stevens says …

Thank you! Sometimes it feels as if the family has to fight on all sides to survive. Thank you for helping us have a place to feel we don't need to do battle on.

Silvia says …

I wish Whole Foods sold organic meats, not only poultry. Animal welfare is important but not enough

Susan Cooper says …

I know how they are raised, which is important. I would like to know how they are killed? Is is at a local slaughterhouse? Are the animals transported great distances? Are they killed with other animals from factory hellhouses?

Selah says …

Whole Foods has provided my family with quality meat and dairy products at a fair and market rate price. Thank you for your commitment to standards.

Judy M says …

Whole Foods: I shop at WF frequently. I give you credit for the 1-5 (5 being best deal for the animal) scoring system you provide at the meat counter as to how the animals are raised prior to "market". However I am not sure, when shopping at WF, which of the meats and and chickens fall into the "1" or the "5" category; because the items are not specifically identified. So I would really like to better understand WFs policies and practices regarding their animal welfare practices in detail for the product I am buying that day. Not just in general

Goethy Revollo says …

If the chicken or beef is not labeled organic, should I assume that it was fed GMO corn?

Lori says …

Agreed. With the Ag Gag laws in effect in states including my own, Iowa, I am curious how you know how your meat was 'humanely' raised? The selection I've seen in this state offers very little that reaches your top level for most humanely raised.

Laurie says …

I'm curious abt the chickens. Are they fed corn? I'm trying to stay away from all things Monsanto and have found most of the free range chickens are finished on grain with corn in it.

Tracy says …

But if the meat is not organic they still eat GMO feed right? Will that be labeled when Whole Foods switches to labeling GMO?

Adena says …

You can taste the difference too! Whole Foods is the way to go!

Cas Pollnow says …

I asked someone in the meat dept if their chickens were fed corn. Almost all corn is GMO. I was directed to whole chickens with a +4 on the bag. Can you answer this question? Thank you. Cas Pollnow

Lauren says …

From one of Whole Foods' grassfed beef producers: Hi Jackie! Responding to your question about accountability, every ranch or farm receives an independent audit every 12-15 months. It's on-site and very up close and personal. Any deviations from the hugely detailed protocol we agree to follow would be quite evident to these experienced welfare auditors and remedial action would be taken to correct deficiencies, or we'd be eliminated from the program. I think you'll find that any producer who is willing to subject their operation to this level of scrutiny has already made the commitment to the highest animal welfare standards on their ranch or farm anyway. We know we wouldn't do it any other way. Because it's the right thing to do.

HSA says …

Good.

Sara Starks says …

It's a matter of trust for me. I trust Whole Foods to do the research, do "what's right," and to provide the healthiest food available. It cannot be stressed enough that in today's retail environment, having a company that is truly about operating with the highest standards (and it's for our FOOD for goodness sake) you are a customer's dream!

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@JOHN, @PATTI, @GOETHY, @LAURIE, @TRACY, & @CAS - Due to the prevalence of the GMOs in the commodity grain market, and the limited availability of verified non-GMO feed, we cannot require the use of only non- GMO feed for animal products (including meat, dairy and farmed fish) sold in our stores. We encourage shoppers who are looking to avoid products from animals fed GMOs to choose organic meat (since organic standards prohibit the intentional use of GMOs).

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@CHARLES - Since we do not have a dedicated gluten free meat department in our stores, the best way to find gluten free meats would be to look for packaged meats that are certified gluten free. Check with your local store and they will be happy to help you out!

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@JOYCE - No, sulfites are on our unacceptable ingredient list for food: http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/about-our-products/quality-standards/unacceptable-ingredients-food.

Ann says …

I will only buy products which come from living creatures from Whole Foods. Humane treatment of animals is a top priority for me.

Valeria says …

Thanks for posting your meat process. I was told that Publix stores also have an excellent meat standard. Is WF the top of the line?

edie says …

After hearing and reading about slaughter house horror stories, my husband and I only eat beef, pork and poultry from local farmers. We are assured that the animals are raised humanely and that the end of their lives if peaceful and quick. We are fortunate to live in a state where it is possible to be selective about the meats we feed our families. There is another reason to consider safe and gentle slaughter procedures. At times of fear and stress, adrenaline is released into the animals and we, and our children are consuming that adrenaline. Probably not healthy eating.

Joyce Davis says …

I love Whole Foods! There meats are the best! Wish there was one closer to Williamsburg! : (

Kristina Wagner says …

Love this article!!

Debbie says …

Started buying my meet at Whole Foods and am very satisfied. Can't wait till they have all GMO products labeled.

Deb Shuman says …

I would also like to know if the animals were treated well n not abused like I have so often heard and were they killed as humanely as possible?? I have a problem with veal... How can that ever be humane ? The no hormones is the way everyone should be eating.

Dee says …

As I have researched consuming healing foods, which incorporates eliminating soy, gluten, corn, peanuts, dairy, eggs, and sugar, I have found it challenging to find poultry, pork loin, and veal that have not been corn fed. Antibotic free is great, and free range is great, but in all the free ranging these animals are doing is the livestock being feed products with corn in their free ranging? Bison must consume 20 lbs of grass in a day to maintain a healthy existance. Besides grass fed beef and bison are the other livestock free from corn. Corn is not a vegetable, it is a grain. Of all the grains it is one of the worst to consume. Corn is high on the glycemic index and as a high glycemic starch breaks down into sugar. Its profile is a pro-inflamitory omega-6 fatty acid. One ear of corn has 15 grams of insulin spiking inflamatory sugar. This is just a smiggen on corn.

Deb Kelso says …

I'll be eating beef and meats from animals not fed GMO corn, soy, or alfalfa. I guess I'll be buying from my local sustainable farmer.

bmom says …

How about dairy products? Only recenlty I learned that the cow milk that I drink is actually depriving a newly-born calf of its food as well as a chance in life. I am sure you are familiar with what horrible fate waits a calf born to a dairy cow, so I guess I don't need to repeat it here. Even though I drink organic milk, I still wonder how organic dairy farms handle this fundamental conflict differently.... I'd appreciate if you can inform us in detail about the practice of dairy farmers that you do business with.

Alex S Grunberg says …

In response to charles. The meat at whole foods is 100% gluten free every-time. I know, because I live in a totally gluten-free household. Even though I do not suffer from celiac disease I am constantly aware of the possibility that one of my family members may become sick from my grocery shopping. Whole Foods follows very strict cleanliness practices, and their raw meat is never contaminated with gluten! In response to Hank. Whole Foods does carry better meat products, and they carry these products to more customers. That is impressive. In response to Patti. GMO or Genetically Modified Organisms are a big problem for farmers because of plant genetics! This of course excludes animals which reproduce in a different way.

Cindy says …

This is why I shop at Whole Foods. We need to think about how animals get on our plate and if they suffered.

Laura K. says …

Do the deli meats have sodium nitrite in them? Just curious cause that is associated with cancer.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@BMOM - We have long been a pioneer of animal welfare for animals raised for our consumption. We have the highest standards in the industry and are very proud of them. With regard to dairy cattle, we look for milk produced by animals that have not been given added hormones or antibiotics. However, at this time we have not created specific standards with regard to the animal’s welfare beyond those set by the USDA. Buying organic milk can ensure that there is an added level of animal welfare consideration. Cows that produce certified organic milk are not given antibiotics or added growth hormones. In addition to having access to the outdoors, cows on certified organic farms are fed 100% organic feed, so consequently they're not exposed to persistent pesticides, herbicides or fungicides, eliminating the possibility that these chemicals may turn up as residues in the milk. (Genetically Modified Organisms, or GMOs, including the use of cloned animals, are also prohibited by the Organic Standards.)

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@ALEX - In response to the gluten free comment, this cannot be applied at every store location as our meat products differ. For example, in my local store, they carry breaded chicken breasts and meats already pre-marinated that sometimes are contain soy sauce. The best option is to check with your local store so they can point you in the right direction!

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@LAURA - No, sodium nitrates are against our Quality Standards. You can read more about our unacceptable ingredients for food at http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/about-our-products/quality-standards/unacceptable-ingredients-food.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@SUSAN & @DEB - All the poultry and meat we sell in our meat departments must meet our benchmark standards of being raised with no antibiotics or added growth hormones, and fed a diet with no animal by-products. We also require all slaughter facilities to successfully pass annual third party audits of their animal welfare and food safety practices. We also visit farms and ranches regularly and requires all our vendors to complete affidavits each year.

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