Whole Story

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Our Meat: No Antibiotics, Ever

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.

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Comments

Marlon says …

I've recently learned that antibiotics and hormones can be provided to an animal and then let off of the dosage for a period of time clearing its "system" of these hormones and antibiotics. Has anyone heard of these farms practicing this and calling their meat antibiotic and hormone free? I feel like this can be a practice to deceive customers. It seems as if most supermarkets have increased their "Antibiotic and hormone free" meat, but it seems impossible to costly to farmers. I feel as if this may be a potential practice. If anyone can reply and offer some assurance that this is not the case I would love to read an article or regulation/law that helps assure people. Thank you!

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@MARLON - I can speak about the meat that we sell. Producers focus on a lot of preventative strategies to keep animals healthy – vaccines, good diets (with no animal byproducts) and quality forages, minimizing stress during transitions (such as weaning, moving to another location). Some producers also use 'alternative treatments' such as homeopathy, botanicals, probiotics etc. If animals do get sick, then they are treated, identified, and marketed through other channels.

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