Our Animal Welfare Standards: Separating Fact from Fiction

By Walter Robb, September 25, 2015  |  More Posts by Walter Robb

Editor's note: The President and CEO of The Humane Society of the Unites States, Wayne Pacelle, wrote on his own blog about this issue. Read his thoughts about Whole Foods Market’s anti-factory farming leadership.

Recently, there has been noise generated by PETA that questions the animal welfare standards we use to certify our partner farmers. I want to help set the record straight and reaffirm Whole Foods Market’s unwavering commitment to sourcing from responsible animal welfare practices and standards.

We all need to be clear about PETA’s mission. PETA is dedicated to ending animal agriculture and animal meat consumption. Period. The allegations they hurl at Whole Foods Market, and the many other targets on their hit list, are generated with that specific agenda in mind.

We firmly believe PETA’s lawsuit filed in California is without merit and is a waste of both the court’s time and taxpayer money. Like the silly “monkey selfie” lawsuit PETA filed against a photographer the same week they sued our business, PETA’s lawsuit against us is clearly designed to generate publicity while smearing our reputation. Oddly, their suit against us was filed in California, more than 2,800 miles and three time zones away from where our customers can buy the local pork products sourced from Sweet Stem Farm in 22 stores in three states.

Here’s what I want to make sure you know:

  • We have spent years working with Global Animal Partnership developing and implementing very rigorous standards for animal welfare and husbandry that extends to every one of our beef, chicken, pork and turkey suppliers; the most rigorous–by far–of any grocer. That’s a point of pride for us.
  • Representatives from PETA participated in the discussions that led to the animal welfare standards we use today.
  • Our meat teams help us ensure products are sourced from suppliers that are dedicated to responsible farming practices. This includes our teams vetting every meat supplier through a stringent approval process to ensure they meet or exceed Whole Foods Market’s quality standards.
  • All beef, chicken, pork and turkey in our fresh meat cases must come from producers who have achieved certification to the Global Animal Partnership’s (GAP) 5-Step® Animal Welfare Rating designed to promote farm animal welfare. GAP – a nonprofit collaboration between farmers, ranchers, animal welfare advocacy organizations, scientists and retailers like us – is committed to continual improvement of farm animal welfare.  
  • Independent third party auditors ensure GAP-certified producers are meeting Step standards, thereby providing transparency to specific production practices.
  • All of our meat is no-antibiotics, no added hormones and no animal by-products in feed – ever.
  • As a condition of doing business with Whole Foods Market, partner farmers must affirm their commitment to our standards throughout their supply chain. And if we are informed of a potential issue on a supplier farm, we rapidly investigate to determine the facts and take appropriate action.

Since we first opened our doors more than 35 years ago, co-founder and co-CEO John Mackey, myself and thousands of passionate, dedicated team members have worked tirelessly to change the food industry for the better. Over the years we have successfully pushed that bar higher and challenged and encouraged players in the food processing and production industries to raise their animal welfare standards.

We are far from finished, but our leadership role begs the question: Why does PETA choose to focus its venom on those who are tangibly and dramatically improving farm animal welfare by providing accountability through collaboration, transparency of production and traceability to source? These are the foundations for the development of a truly responsible pasture-based form of animal agriculture.

From 1981, when we stopped selling meat with added hormones, to the introduction of our ground-breaking Global Animal Partnership 5 Step® Animal Welfare Rating program in 2011, we have gone well above and beyond anyone else in the grocery industry, and that fact is beyond dispute.

We remain committed to providing the best quality and ethically sourced meat, fish, and poultry products, and are not distracted by the cynical, publicity-driven efforts of our critics. Whole Foods Market’s No. 1 priority is to ensure that our customers have the information they need to make the best, most informed choices for them and their families, and that every product on our shelves meets the rigorous quality standards that set us so far apart from our competition.

We thank you for your ongoing loyalty to Whole Foods Market!

Categories: Company Info

Introducing Our New Store Concept: 365 by Whole Foods Market™

By Jeff Turnas, June 10, 2015  |  More Posts by Jeff Turnas


Jeff Turnas, a 20-year Whole Foods Market® veteran, is president of 365 by Whole Foods Market. Jeff has held key leadership positions, including as president of the company’s North Atlantic region and most recently as president of its United Kingdom region.

Hey everyone, I’m here to reach out with an exciting update. In May, we announced we’d launch a new innovation to help meet the exploding demand for more natural and organic foods: a smaller-store concept where value meets quality. Today, we’re introducing the official name for the newest member of the Whole Foods Market Family — 365 by Whole Foods Market™!

Value, Convenience and Standards

“365” in the name celebrates our belief that fresh healthy foods can be readily available to more people in an affordable way every day…365 days a year. It also tips our hat to our popular 365 Everyday Value brand, which our shoppers seek out for quality, transparency and great value — the same attributes to come with our smaller-store format. We'll work up a modern, consistent design, use innovative technology and carefully choose just the right product mix to ensure an efficient and rewarding shopping experience.

In short, our 365 by Whole Foods Market stores will offer a simple way to shop for healthy, high-quality food at great prices. And the great news is, we'll stick to the same top-notch Quality Standards we’ve all spent the last 35 years creating. 

What’s Next?

The entrepreneurial spirit of the startup mode is invigorating! We're already busy developing the recipe for an exciting and fun retail experience to bring healthy, fresh affordable foods to more communities.

We’re stoked!


Watch for more information at 365WFM.com.

Categories: Company Info

Walter on Bloomberg Radio: Why a Variety of Efforts Help Sales

By Walter Robb, November 10, 2014  |  More Posts by Walter Robb

Walter discusses fiscal fourth-quarter profit that topped analysts’ estimates as the grocery-store chain slashed prices to win over bargain-hunting shoppers. Robb speaks with Bloomberg’s Carol Massar and Michael McKee on Bloomberg Radio’s "Taking Stock" on Nov. 6.

You can listen to the interview here.


Categories: Interviews

Sharing our growth story with the media

By Walter Robb, September 17, 2014  |  More Posts by Walter Robb

I recently appeared on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street” program to talk about Whole Foods Market’s progress across a number of fronts. Topics included the innovative grocery pickup and delivery service partnership with Instacart, our company being named one of the first retailers to accept Apple Pay transactions, our upcoming national branding campaign, and more.

Earlier in the summer, I also conducted a wide-ranging interview with Bloomberg Radio. In it, I address the evolving competitive landscape, Whole Foods Markets’ continued growth, value pricing, defying conventional wisdom with the success of Whole Foods Market’s Detroit store, and much more. Listen to my radio interview.

Categories: Interviews

Our Revised Team Member Language Guidelines

By Walter Robb, June 27, 2013  |  More Posts by Walter Robb

Walter Robb,co-CEO, shares our Revised Team Member Language Guidelines on behalf of the Whole Foods Market Leadership Network.

I'd like to begin this post with two statements regarding the recent incident involving two of our team members in one of our Albuquerque, New Mexico stores.

First, we sincerely apologize that a section of our handbook regarding team member interactions in the workplace was not clearly written, and for any misunderstandings or offense it has created. Its intention was to foster inclusion, not exclusion.

Second, our senior leadership team has reviewed and changed the wording of this section and will ensure that this new wording and, more importantly, the intention behind it is reviewed and discussed at the next team member meeting at every store and facility throughout the company, which will be within 45 days time. The original as well as the revised guidelines in their entirety are included below for your reference.

Now, I would like to provide some additional information regarding this incident.

  1. I cannot disclose confidential personnel details regarding team members, but I can tell you that both team members involved received paid, one-day suspensions for their workplace behavior, not for speaking Spanish. I only make this statement after our team completed thorough interviews with the individuals involved as well as others present during and after the incident at the store last month.
  1. This unfortunate incident has provided us the opportunity to review and revise language in our handbook which, while in place for years, does not reflect and is not in alignment with the spirit of this company, nor our track record of respect and appreciation for our team members over the past 33 years. We hope and believe our revised language unequivocally communicates our support for our team members to honor and celebrate their cultures by speaking the language they prefer, while also helping to ensure a safe, respectful and courteous work and shopping environment.
  1. Last week, we were contacted by LULAC - New Mexico, and we have sent them a copy of our original and revised language for their feedback. We were also contacted by the ACLU in New Mexico and are communicating with them. And, we have been contacted by ProgressNow New Mexico via Moveon.org members who delivered a petition asking us to change our language guidelines. We will continue to have conversations with these organizations.

In closing, I want to say that even though we have now made what we believe to be the appropriate changes in the wording of these guidelines as noted, we will remain open to further changes as we continue to seek third-party perspectives.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.


Understanding Each Other

(Team Member handbook wording Revised June 2013)

Whole Foods Market has locations in metropolitan areas with diverse populations, which is proudly reflected in our stores by our customers and our Team Members. We celebrate diversity and the many cultures and languages it brings to the Whole Foods Market environment.

Speaking a variety of different languages at our stores and facilities can be positive in better serving our customers, but also can sometimes present challenges, especially when it comes to clear communications about safety and quality control, and also ensuring positive interactions among our customers and Team Members.

We are committed to making sure that our food is prepared according to the proper recipes, that our Team Members thoroughly understand and follow safety practices, and that we are courteous, respectful and inclusive among our customer and Team Member base, regardless of the languages spoken. The following in-store guidelines will ensure we make good on this commitment:

  •  If you speak English and you need to communicate with an English-speaking customer, please speak with them in English, unless requested otherwise by the customer.
  • When speaking with customers or fellow Team Members, please make sure you are sensitive to others who may want to join your conversation or ask you a question. If needed, switch to a common language to be inclusive and respectful.
  • If you do not understand English adequately, please inform a Team Leader so that communications may be translated for you.

These guidelines are meant to help ensure safe, respectful, and courteous work environments. If they are not observed, the company reserves the right to take whatever corrective measures it feels are fair, equitable, and appropriate


Understanding Each Other

(Team Member handbook wording in place until June 2013)

Whole Foods Market has locations in some of the most diverse cities in the nation, and we reflect that diversity in our workforce. We take pride in our diversity, and we recognize that with this diversity comes the challenge of different languages that are spoken by both our Team Members and customers. This challenge takes a number of forms: safety, quality control and promoting harmony among Team Members and customers. For example, we all want to be sure that our food is prepared according to the proper recipes, that cleaning products are handled safely, and that our customers (and fellow Team Members) don’t wonder if they are the “butt of the joke” when a group is laughing nearby at something said in a language they don’t understand. Misunderstandings and hurt feelings may result if people feel excluded when others speak in a language they don’t understand in front of them. With these challenges in mind, it is essential that we abide by the following guidelines:

  • If you speak English and are in the presence of customers, it is essential that the conversation be in English.
  • If you speak English and are in the presence of Team Members, it is essential that the conversation be in English any time you are on the clock and discussing work-related tasks or subjects. Remember to treat your co-workers with the same respect you would extend a customer.

These rules shall not apply to conversations among Team Members or with customers if all present prefer to speak a language other than English. You are free to speak any language during your breaks, meal periods and before and after work. If you do not speak English, please inform a Team Leader so that all work-related communications may be translated into a language you understand to ensure a safe and productive work environment. Clear communication is essential to a safe and efficient work environment. We can better ensure customer safety, food safety and consistent quality when we ensure that all Team Members understand one another and the instruction they are given.

As with any other company policy, if these guidelines are not observed, the company reserves the right to take whatever corrective measures it feels are appropriate.



Categories: Company Info