Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

Responsibly Raised

Memorial Day kicks off grilling season and for many people, meat’s on the menu. We believe that the best meat comes from animals raised with more room to move and more things to do, in environments where safety and cleanliness are valued.

In the spirit of enjoying meat from animals raised with respect I asked Anne Malleau, Whole Foods Market’s global animal production and welfare coordinator to point out how five of Whole Foods Market’s suppliers put the animals first.

White Oak Pastures – Beef

"I love all those trees. Many farmers cut down the trees because that makes it easier to move equipment around the farm, or because cattle tend to hang out under the trees, which can pack down the land. But not here – these cattle have trees for protection from wind break and shade. They love to rub up against the trees too; you can see one in the back right, going to town. That’s grooming and it feels good to them, like a big scratching post.

It’s also nice to see mamas and babies together; they’re not being weaned too early. They’re clean, too – no muddy bellies or sides. And lastly, the pasture looks great. Even though it’s brown, it’s full with plenty of grass, not matted down. You can tell the cattle have been moving around it."

Thompson Farms – Pork

"The first thing I see here is a muddy sow – which is great! That tells me she’s got wallows, which pigs love. Wallows provide a place to cool down and protection from insects and the sun (pigs have sensitive skin!). I can tell it’s outside of the growing season, but the pasture still looks good and isn’t denuded. This shows that the animals are moved around, and also they’re not rooting around in the soil.

In some systems, nose rings are used to discourage animals from rooting. This sow doesn’t have a nose ring AND the land’s not denuded – that’s a sign of an effective management system.

Now let’s get to those babies. She’s got lots of piglets and they all have their tails. There are mixed breeds here; these guys will do well outside. With darker skin, they won’t sunburn as badly as pink or white-skinned pigs."

Pitman Farms – Chicken

"When I look at the birds themselves, I notice their full feathers and that they’re ranging freely. They’re also sticking around for the photo, which means they’re not freaked out by the presence of a human. I also like seeing the right breed in the right system. David Pitman is holding a California Bronze. This is a bird that was born to be outside as they’ve got strong legs and a good immune system.

When I look at the environment, I see perches, with lots of room for the chickens to get up onto those perches without banging into each other. They have a house they can go into at night and spots to crawl underneath for shade or to escape from aerial predators. Short and tall grass means some variability for their diets, too, as they peck around. Their food and water is available inside or out, and the pasture looks great. This is a mobile system – by the look of the pasture you can tell it’s moved regularly so the birds have fresh area to forage all the time."

Niman Ranch – Pork

"These pigs look great. They’re evenly sized, and they’re the right breed for the system. Their darker skins protect them against sunburn and they have their tails. What I especially like here is seeing the Quonset huts, which are used for gestation and farrowing (having piglets!). It looks like here each sow has her own individual hut, which is nice because they tend to isolate themselves and want to nest before they give birth.

The huts are also good because the sows can stay there with their piglets for the first week or two while the piglets grow past the age/size where they might get picked up by hawks or eagles. In a good system, farmers place the huts strategically with prevailing winds so the animals inside get the air flow they need. They insulate the huts, too, so they’re not little ovens when the sun is shining. Last thing: look at that great green pasture!"

Icelandic Lamb

"The pasture looks nice, but what I really notice here are the animals. They look great: they’re well-filled out, not dirty and no broken horns. This photo was shot during the annual roundup. The sheep are being moved by people on horseback, rather than ATV, which is noisier and can stress the animals. What’s cool about Icelandic lamb is the sheep only see people twice in their lives: when they go out to graze, and when they come back.

They don’t know people, and yet they’re walking calmly, not at all stressed. The riders know how to move sheep – they can make them run, walk, slow them down to a stop, etc – all without a word. Sheep are a prey species (their first inclination is to run and get away from bigger animals), but these riders are using “points of balance” to silently urge the sheep in any direction, at any pace, just by showing up at a specific point in the sheep’s fields of vision."

Our selection of meat and poultry is renowned for great taste and superior quality. We believe this has a lot to do with the care that goes into raising the animals and the true partnerships we develop with the farmers and ranchers that supply our stores.

Find out more about our animal welfare standards at: wholefoodsmarket.com/animalwelfare.

Do you have any questions about our standards? Ask us in the comments below.