Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

Our Meat: No Antibiotics, Ever

By A.C. Gallo, June 25, 2012  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by A.C. Gallo

Whole Foods Market President and Chief Operating Officer A.C. Gallo is committed to sustainable agriculture and fostering the growth of foods with the purest ingredients.

There’s a good chance you’ve heard about or seen a story on the news lately about a leading consumer organization’s report on the widespread use of antibiotics in the US meat supply.

A recent nationwide poll conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center states that “the majority of respondents were extremely or very concerned about issues related to the use of antibiotics in animal feed, including the potential creation of superbugs due to overuse of antibiotics, unsanitary and crowded conditions for livestock, human consumptions of antibiotic residue, and environmental effects due to agricultural runoff containing antibiotics. 86% of consumers indicated they thought that meat raised without antibiotics should be available in their local supermarket.”

At Whole Foods Market, our standard is clear: No antibiotics, EVER!

We have worked with our suppliers to make sure that the people who produce our meat have raised their animals without the use of antibiotics, growth hormones* or animal byproducts in the feed. This includes not only the fresh and frozen meat in our meat departments but also all meat used in our prepared foods cases and all meat used in our own store brand products that contain meat.

For the past 60 years antibiotics have been used to create efficiencies in meat production. Antibiotics are added to the animals’ feed or water to prevent infection that can occur when animals are crowded in confined areas.

As well, antibiotics and hormones are given in this manner to promote rapid growth. For instance, conventionally raised cattle are ready for market in about 16 months, while cattle raised without antibiotics and hormones don’t leave the farm until they’re 20 to 24 months old. The extended growth period is a more expensive prospect for a farmer or rancher, but one we feel is well worth it.

At Whole Foods Market, finding farmers who go the extra mile and raise their animals without depending on antibiotics is simply what we do. We visit our North American farms and ranches to make sure they meet our standards. We prohibit both sub-therapeutic and therapeutic antibiotics, and we require records of all medication used. If an animal becomes ill or is injured, we require that the animal is treated and then removed from our North American meat supply.

We have been concerned for many years about issues with using antibiotics in farm animals and have worked hard to help our suppliers develop growing practices that eliminate the use of antibiotics while still insuring healthy animals. Our producers adopt practices such as giving the animals more room, keeping their living areas cleaner, allowing more access to the outdoors and to pasture, and feeding them a healthy diet that does not allow the use of any animal byproducts.

They also have to monitor the health of the animals much more carefully and insure that if there are any health issues, they are dealt with immediately versus waiting until there is a bigger problem with the entire herd.

The overall benefits to the animals are significant as their overall welfare and health are improved. I hope you’ll visit your local Whole Foods Market and ask our in-store butchers about our meat – the best-tasting beef, pork and poultry you’ll find in a grocery store and no antibiotics, EVER!

*Federal regulations prohibit the use of growth hormones in raising pigs, veal calves, bison and poultry.

Category: Meat




liv says ...
Your "our standards" link in the article above is not working.. 404 error.
06/27/2012 4:24:56 PM CDT
St. McDuck says ...
I don't eat a lot of meat, but when I do, I always choose to shop at Whole Foods. I've had some very nice experiences interacting with your knowledgeable staff and they've helped me pick out perfect cuts of turkey, ham and chicken on numerous occasions. Now if Whole Foods would do more to rid their stores of genetic modification (GMO), I'd feel even better about shopping there (such as, you still carry Cheerios, which is chock full of genetic modification).
06/27/2012 5:10:08 PM CDT
Lindsay says ...
If only you'd get rid of GMOs in your meat dept. I only found three or so pieces of meat that were GMO-free in the whole dept. at your Venice, Ca location. GMOs are just as scary if not scarier than antibiotics. Also, there are GMOs in your salad bar area and just about all of your pre-made food (a lot of it has canola oil in it) and other GMO foods such as soy products and sweet corn.
06/27/2012 5:21:10 PM CDT
Jonathan Ratliff says ...
I so agree with St. McDuck....too much G.E. foods still and items filled with GMO soybean oil....not good. Please PLEASE start offering some true RAW 100% grass fed organic cheese of some varieties too! Thank you....
06/27/2012 5:25:26 PM CDT
June Siegel says ...
Meat = Murder! Have you taken a look at the gorgeous cows in this photo? They are animals with families (parents, children, mates), just like you and me. They are the gentlest of souls, no different from the cat or dog sitting on your lap right now. And a mother cow's milk is meant for her calf, and for her calf only, not us greedy humans. Every time you buy a bottle of milk (organic or whatever), you have taken a calf from his/her mother and killed it. The calf gets removed at birth, especially if it's a male, and then slaughtered for a piece of veal. Think again before you act selfishly. Have compassion, go vegan, for your health and for life for all.
06/27/2012 6:08:34 PM CDT
Debbie Ross says ...
I would love to have a Whole Foods store in El Paso, TX or Las Cruces, NM!
06/27/2012 10:25:16 PM CDT
Keith B says ...
Keeping animals healthy and comfortable, knowing all the while that they will be slaughtered in the end, strikes me as being an especially grotesque form of depravity and represents a disconnectedness from the understanding that these individuals are not walking meat - they are beautiful sentient beings with as much right to live out their natural lives free from confinement and abuse as humans or any other species. It is ridiculous to think that anyone is doing animals a favor by treating them "humanely" while sharpening the slaughter blade. That borderline sociopathic behavior is nothing more than self-serving, gluttonous hypocrisy. After all, "grass-fed" and "humanely-raised" is still knife-killed. There will no longer be a need to worry about the antibiotic issue if we simply make the choice to dismantle our brutal and barbaric system of animal slavery (remember, animals do NOT volunteer to be eaten by humans) and do as I and millions of others have done with undeniably successful results: adopt a plant-based diet and live a vegan lifestyle. Going vegan is the single best choice one can make for oneself and the planet. Try going vegan - if it doesn't work for you, you can always go back to the selfishly cruel and inhumane life you left behind.
06/28/2012 12:14:17 AM CDT
Sam says ...
AWWWWWW...The cows are so cute!!!!!! :) I LOVE YOU WHOLE FOODS!!!! KEEP ON FIGHTING!!!
06/28/2012 3:43:28 AM CDT
Not a pretty picture after all!!! says ...
I have to say when I saw that beautiful picture of the Cow's at the bottom of the screen it was difficult fur me to understand why anyone Would want to equate that with "What's for dinner tonight"? I understand everyone has a right to choose what they want to eat but when my child points and says "Cow.... Moooo".... I am not about to answer yes and that's also what we are eating tonight! Maybe the picture about The background behind Whole Foods organic antibiotic free meats can be reassessed? I have been loyal to Whole Foods since the early 90's back in SF and have grown with it!! Now we are a Whole Foods Family and enjoy the many different foods your stores carry vs the traditional Supermarket! Please take that Beautiful picture off of the front page regarding Ultimately what will happen to the Cow, pigs and chickens! Maybe the beautiful counter with your meats displayed instead? Put that as the link to the explanation of the type of meat Whole Foods only deals with! JT
06/28/2012 7:39:10 AM CDT
Lyrajayne says ...
I have to say that one of the reasons that my daughter and I shop at Whole Foods is the meat department. We are carnivores and believe that there is every reason to treat the animals we eat with care and respect. With Whole Foods, I don't have to worry about it. Plus there are still real people at the butcher counter and we consider that a must! Also, contrary to what a previous poster mentioned - I think you should leave the picture as is. It's important that people and kids know where their food comes from and not view it as disassociated slabs of muscle. It's an ongoing conversation I have with my 7 year-old.
06/28/2012 9:57:53 AM CDT
Coswoofster says ...
I am an omnivore who believes in the sacred provisions of this planet. Native cultures were hunter and gatherers who worshipped the animals and thanked them through elaborate ceremonies for their provision of sustenance. They wasted no part of the animal out of honor for its sacrifice of life. How far we have come in the disconnect from the animal to the dinner table. It isn't about needing to adopt extremes or to expect everyone to become vegan, it is about adopting an attitude of respect for all life on this planet and to honor the animal for the role it plays within the greater system of survival. Just because an animal's destiny is to become food for another does not mean it should be provided a life of hell in the process. All over the planet animals consume each other.... little fish by big fish etc.... but at least the little fish live a happy carefree life in the meantime.
06/28/2012 11:47:47 AM CDT
Choose Compassion says ...
Please allow me to respectfully disagree with some of the comments and offer my opinions: 1) taking animals off our menus/becoming vegan is NOT extreme; killing 27 MILLION innocent, defenseless animals in the US every day - that's 19,000 every minute and 10 BILLION a year - for food we don't actually need to eat IS extreme. There's nothing extreme about making the compassionate choice to allow others to live without suffering. Choosing to live a vegan lifestyle is no more extreme than choosing not to abuse children or rape women. 2) Honoring animals for their roles as food sources for humans is a rationization predicated on the mistaken belief that animals somehow choose to be our food. Given their druthers, no animals would choose to lay down their lives so that we could eat them. They are not making some noble sacrifice - we enslave them against their will and kill them. There's nothing remotely noble in that type of bullying. When we do that to others of our species, we call it murder and we pay consequences. In the case of what we're doing to animals, Nature has found a way to mete out consequences by shortening our lives through heart disease, diabetes, cancers and a host of avoidable ailments all verifiably linked to the ingestion of animal products. 3) Who are we to determine "an animal's destiny"? Most of us barely know what we're going to be doing with our own lives next week or where our kids will go to soccer camp, yet we empower ourselves to make the decisions about which animals live and which die? I think that's taking huge liberties with business that is not our own. Thanks for listening!
06/28/2012 3:30:53 PM CDT
The Valley Vegan says ...
I'm not sure how a plate of veggies is more extreme than a plate of slaughtered animal flesh?
06/28/2012 5:24:12 PM CDT
Adam says ...
Thank you, Choose Compassion. You so perfectly said everything thing I was thinking. :)
06/28/2012 10:00:28 PM CDT
crusty says ...
This is one of the many reasons I love Wholefoods. Its not that they go the extra step, its that they do it they way it should have always been done. They way it use to be. No disrespect to the vegans as I have been there before, but we are ominvores. we are also animals biologically suppose to eat meat,just like many other animals eat meat. humans would not have made it without the help of many a tasty animal.(this is not to say you can't be healthy without it, but it is a big task if you want to be healthy) But we aren't suppose to manufacture it, and treat animals like they aren't alive. Which has not to do with being rightous as much as it does common sense...You are what you eat. I am thankful for people who are vegan, I think that helps cut down on the need for meat globally. All societies survived from farming, hunting and gathering and wholefoods sticks to the natural way of doing so.
06/29/2012 10:40:27 AM CDT
Choose Compassion says ...
My pleasure, Adam! :)
06/29/2012 11:03:27 AM CDT
Choose Compassion says ...
@ crusty - I personally don't find it to be a "big task" to be vegan (and stay that way) and remain healthy, but I have seen that rationalization used before to justify two things: a ongoing unwillingness to stop supporting animal cruelty and, perhaps even worse, a lack of consciousness with regard to what farming and hunting really are, which is sanctioned animal abuse and murder.
06/29/2012 6:32:40 PM CDT
Judy says ...
Thank you for taking this stand on antibiotic free meat. I have allergies to several antibiotics, and recently started eating more meat for my health. I found I am very insulin resistant, and a diet high in grains and beans has caused lots of problems for me. But, as I started eating meat more often, I have occasionally outbreaks of hives. The only thing I can think of that might be causing it is the antibiotic residue in the meat. I will definitely be looking to Whole Foods to avoid these problems in the future.
06/30/2012 11:01:26 AM CDT
John Buchanan says ...
7.01.2012 The "our standards" link isn't working.
07/01/2012 9:44:43 AM CDT
Megan says ...
@John Thanks, it has been fixed!
07/02/2012 8:58:04 AM CDT
Sue Arnott says ...
I love Whole Foods and travel from Guelph to Oakville to shop there. I do, however, hope that GMO foods will be removed from the shelves one day as the dangers of eating them are enormous and the degree of which is still yet to be ascertained. As far as the "should we eat meat or not?" issue is concerned. I feel that everyone has a right to choose what and how they eat. I agree with the many comments about not eating it and choose not to eat it myself. Perhaps if the emeat eaters could read "The World Peace Diet" by Will Tuttle, PH.D they may think again. The human body, contrary to some opinions I read here, does NOT require meat to be well....in fact, science has proven the exact opposite to be the case. Please inform yourselves before chosing what to eat. Base decisions on education and not being "sold" by someone else. Thank you for this opportunity to offer my opinion.
07/03/2012 10:52:49 AM CDT
theotherguy says ...
I think it is a great thing that you provide meats without the antibiotics. What I would really love to see is natural animal diet meats, such as grass fed beef, free range chickens, etc. The removal of agriculturally grown grains from animal diets creates a healthier meat for humans. For 140,000 years, man (and earlier forms of man) ate a natural hunter gatherer diet and have only seen an agricultural diet for the last 10,000 years. Genetically, our bodies and digestion are much better off with a mix of naturally fed meats and horticultural fruits, vegetables and nuts. In a business sense, you would be far an beyond any other market or store by offering these types of meats on a regular basis. With the increasing numbers of people looking to eat this natural style diet, it could be financially beneficial. Right now, most people have to have these types of meats frozen and shipped across states.
07/03/2012 12:12:21 PM CDT
Helen perry says ...
I enjoyed your article I would like to ask how much corn u feed the animals and are the in "feed lots or grass fed? Also where r all the locations of your stores close to ft worth tx. Also concerned about Gmo Thank u
08/20/2012 8:06:10 AM CDT
nikki.newman says ...
@HELEN - The amount of corn an animal eats would vary between vendors. The best option would be to ask a team member in the Meat department. For a list of stores in the Ft. Worth area, you can check our store list at http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/list. My guess would be the Arlington, TX, location. You can also find information about GMO's on our site at http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/mission-values/environmental-stewardship/genetically-engineered-foods. Hope this helps!
08/20/2012 12:15:14 PM CDT
donna mae says ...
How can you be sure they are not shot up with hormones or fed moldy grain? ALso are they grassfed or free range?
09/27/2012 12:36:17 AM CDT