Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

No Tail Docking of Our Pigs

By Frances Flower, August 9, 2012  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Frances Flower

One of the most iconic features of pigs is their curly tails. In fact, they even wag their tails when they are happy or excited. What you may not realize is there aren’t many pigs running around with tails these days.

Sadly, the majority of today’s pigs have their tails removed when they are just a few days to a few weeks old.  Farmers call this tail docking or clipping. The reason? Tail biting. Some pigs repeatedly chew and bite the tails of other pigs, which can lead to painful injuries. The reasons for this tail-biting behavior are complex and there are many contributing factors, but it’s commonly found in pigs housed indoors where stocking densities are high and the pens are barren.

But at Whole Foods Market®, we do things a little differently. Not only do our pork suppliers have to meet our Whole Foods Market’s meat requirements of no animal byproducts in feed and no antibiotics – ever, but we also require all our suppliers to be certified to the Global Animal Partnership’s 5-Step™ Animal Welfare Rating Program. One of those standards (and there are over 110 standards for pork suppliers!) is that routine tail docking is prohibited. That means our pigs are raised with their curly tails intact!

If you’re wondering if these pigs experience lots of tail biting, I’m here to tell you, they don’t! That’s because Global Animal Partnership standards focus on animal welfare. It’s required that pigs are given lots of bedding in their pens (not usually provided at conventional farms) and have the space they need to move around without being crammed together. Plus, farrowing and gestation crates are never used.

At Step 2 and higher, pigs are provided enrichments, such as straw or hay bales, which encourage them to root around. It’s well known that in natural settings pigs will spend up to 50% of their day rooting and foraging for food, so these enrichments really encourage their natural behavior to shine. By giving them extra space and a more enriched environment, the pigs don’t spend time chewing each other’s tails. A win-win for the pigs!

We don’t think tail docking is necessary and we support Global Animal Partnership’s standards that prohibit it. What do you think?

Blog Updated on 2/20/2015.

Category: Meat, Animal Welfare




Danielle says ...
That is so awesome! I am buying all my pork from you guys from now on! Keep up the good work! ;-)
08/09/2012 11:38:22 AM CDT
Brynne says ...
It is also standard practice for factory-farmed pigs to be castrated without anaesthesia. Are the fully-tailed pigs spared that procedure? I clicked onto the "Standards" link, but did not see relevant information.
08/09/2012 2:46:30 PM CDT
nikki.newman says ...
@BRYNNE - Thanks for an interesting question. In general, pigs are castrated to prevent boar taint – an unpleasant taste in the meat. The GAP 5-Step standards do allow castration at Steps 1-4, with specific requirements on age and method; because animals heal quicker at very young ages the standard requires this practice to be done before piglets reach 7 days of age, but currently there is no pain relief required by the program.
08/10/2012 10:24:23 AM CDT
Nyah says ...
ok but you still kill these pigs and that's Awwfull
08/10/2012 11:35:01 AM CDT
FN says ...
That's great! I always feel a little guilty about eating animals but I just can't give up meat. The least we could do is make their living conditions better - and it benefits us too. Kudos for setting an example for the industry and showing that customers care about animal welfare.
08/13/2012 10:44:56 AM CDT
Justin says ...
This is the way it should be for ALL farms that supply meat to grocery stores or individuals; just imagine the high quality of food you would get from well-treated animals! Even if one isn't vegetarian or vegan, one can still appreciate companies who champion animal rights even as they are selling them as meat products. Good job, Whole Foods! If only more major supermarket chains conducted business the way you do... Animals who are treated positively throughout their lifespan are more likely to produce healthy, high-quality meat than those that are treated like commodities instead of living, intelligent beings.
09/09/2012 1:51:06 PM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@JUSTIN - Thanks! We we love if this form of animal welfare caught on across the entire food industry!
09/10/2012 11:56:11 AM CDT
Tiffany says ...
glad that these pigs are well taken care and are kept in clean and happy enviroments! will deffinitley be shopping here for all my groceries!:)
09/14/2012 4:18:11 PM CDT
simon says ...
I have a question about slaughtering the animals, how is it done in a kosher style or halal style or are they stunned and then slaughtered. I like the way the animals are treated when alive, that is why i buy my meat from local farmers and i know that they do not use antibiotics and are grass feed and they roam the fields. I just wonder on the slaughtering methods.
09/16/2012 5:41:35 PM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@SIMON - Thanks for your question. Our humane slaughter standards require that all animals be stunned before slaughter. The only exception we have made to this standard at this time is for the ritual slaughter of Kosher chicken and turkey. If you are looking specifically for Kosher items, I would encourage you to check with your local store to inquire as to what Kosher items they have available, or may be special ordered for you. Whole Foods Market also requires all slaughter facilities to successfully pass annual third party audits of their animal welfare and food safety practices each year. Visit http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/list to get in touch with your local store.
09/17/2012 3:30:48 PM CDT
cj goldstein says ...
Thank you Whole Foods for caring about the farm animals and setting a good example that hopefully, other markets will follow. It does make a difference in the lives of the animals.
10/11/2012 5:52:51 AM CDT
Joyce Lee says ...
Hi there! I was curious. What do the pigs and chickens eat generally? Best, J
06/05/2013 9:02:17 AM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@JOYCE - Since our vendors vary between store locations, the feed will vary between vendors. If you are curious about a particular product at your local store, a meat team member will be happy to find out for you!
06/10/2013 1:33:01 PM CDT
Jonelle Ross says ...
Ironically , society has deemed it a crime against humanity for individuals to torture another human being ; yet we lose our conscience when it comes to the inhumane , murder of helpless animals. If you cut off my finger instead of my whole arm, would the resulting pain be considered less deplorable? In the words of George Bernard Shaw, " Animals are our Friends, and I don't Eat My Friends."
09/05/2013 10:05:30 PM CDT
Emily says ...
Just throwing this out there, NONE OF THE MEAT PEOPLE CONSUME HAVE ANTIBIOTICS in them. It's against every single code. Period end of story. And also the reason a majority of pig farms dock the tail is to help the animal so that the litter mates don't bite on the tail and cause infection, it animal gets over the pain in a minute or two, and then its done. Everything a farmer does for his/her animals are to help them, yes there is pain for the animal, but its to help the overall health of the animal. How would you feel if you had a tail and your brothers and sisters kept biting on it to where there was blood and scabs all over it, going into that pain over and over again as soon as it heals, or would you want 1 minute of pain and then not have any more? I think not. I'm sorry, but everyone should go to a pig farm and talk to the workers and farmers and see why they do what they do, instead of just thinking this way and not knowing the real reason. I'm not kidding guys, we do it to help the animal not get an infection and then suffer from that, and since we can't give antibiotics the animal will DIE. So, would you rather a small amount of pain, or death for an animal that then just gets wasted. Think about the amount of people each farmer in America has to feed, its hard to make a living by it, and its even harder when people think they are doing something wrong, when they are just trying to get by.
02/10/2014 3:36:38 PM CST
Tracy says ...
As a 4-H leader and single mom of 2 amazing kids, I am so thankful to see encouragement for the awareness of what happens before it gets to the table. We raise our own eggs, goat milk and pork (this is what we have room for) and we love our animals. We take pride in knowing our critters have the best life possible until their time is up. My 13 year old son recently entered a debate with an adult regarding veal, because he knows where it comes from. The adult walked away saying "I don't care, it tastes good". I believe my son won the debate. So just let me say "thank you, Whole foods" for what you are 'bringing to the table'.
02/11/2014 5:01:11 PM CST
Suzanne says ...
When selecting local pork suppliers, please have someone who is sensitive to 'boar taint' (not always male pigs, nor related to sexual chemicals) test the herd beforehand. I can no longer buy pork from my local Whole Foods because this wasn't done, and the new step 5 supplier produces meat totally uneatable to myself, and my family. That's 75% of pork eaters in the area who may or may not complain, but can't cook/eat the meat due to the gagging smell/flavor. (75% being the reported percent of the population who are sensitive to it, at various stages.) Plus it hurts to waste meat from an animal, because of this problem. (Castration isn't the only answer, and shouldn't even be needed in step 5 pork, thankfully, unless due to genetics.) I am also concerned about how step 5 this new supplier really is. The last supplier was always clearly labeled with step 5, and info about the farm was posted around the meat section. This one is not.
07/07/2014 7:36:38 AM CDT
Suzanne says ...
I should add, I've frequently eaten wild boar, squirrel, elk, deer, etc. My issue is not what I would call a 'gamey' flavor. (The wild boars were 'gamey' and delicious.) If the herd test out to not be genetically or environment/management prone to 'boar taint' flavor, then the processing steps, up to packaging methods, need looking into.
07/07/2014 10:44:14 AM CDT