Farm Animal and Meat Standards

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At Whole Foods Market, we believe you’ve got a right to know where your food comes from and what goes into it. That includes everything in our meat department. We’ve long worked with our farmer and rancher partners to develop innovative practices for the quality and safety of the meat we offer every day. And we’re serious about the comfort, safety, health and natural behaviors of the animals. 

Basic Requirements That Aren’t Basic Everywhere

It might be easy for you to shop for meat to take out of our stores, but it’s not easy for producers to get their meat into our stores. Our baseline requirements are stronger than most anywhere. We salute our farmer and rancher partners, because, to be eligible to sell meat or products that contain meat in our meat department, they must first meet these criteria:

  • Animals must not receive antibiotics, ever. Sick animals must get treatment, but meat from antibiotic-treated animals cannot be sold to Whole Foods Market.
  • Added hormones are prohibited. While federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones in raising pigs, poultry, bison and goats, we don’t allow them in raising beef or lamb, either.
  • Our animal welfare standards must be met.
  • No animal byproducts are allowed in feed, including feather meal and rendered fat.
  • No crates, cages or tethers are permitted during the animal’s daily life. This includes, but is not limited to gestation crates and farrowing stalls for sows, and individual hutches or tethers for veal calves.
  • Beef cattle, sheep and goats must spend at least two-thirds of their life on pasture.
  • Meat from cloned animals is not permitted at Whole Foods Market.
  • Irradiation of meat products is not permitted.
  • Verification must be provided for:
    • A clear traceability audit system that tracks herds or flocks from each farm through slaughter.
    • A comprehensive recall program.
    • Full disclosure of management practices and feed rations.
    • A robust internal audit program to monitor compliance with our standards, as well as with governmental regulations and the producer’s own protocols.

Additional Standards for Our Meat Department


Animals vary physically and behaviorally, so each species has additional specific standards that must be met.

Bacon, Ham, Sausage and Hot Dogs

In addition to our storewide standards for all foods, our standards for these require no synthetic nitrates or nitrites, and no irradiation.

Organic Meat and Poultry

Just like any food labeled organic in the U.S., meat products have to meet very specific, federally regulated standards, including for organic processing. Meat and poultry labeled organic must come from animals fed organic – which also means non-GMO – feed, given fresh air and outdoor access, and raised without antibiotics or added growth hormones.

Grass-Fed Beef and Lamb

The animal must have had continuous access to pasture during the growing season, and cannot be fed grain or grain by-products.

You Can Count On It: Third-Party Audits

For your confidence in shopping and to ensure the best quality at your table, we require mandatory third-party audits of our meat department suppliers’ slaughter and processing facilities. This includes assessments of animal welfare and food safety.

Food safety audits of slaughter and meat processing facilities include:

  • Cleanliness of external areas
  • Facilities, equipment and fabrication practices
  • Coolers, freezers, chilled transport
  • Rodent and insect control
  • Personal hygiene
  • Sanitation
  • Condition and cleanliness of staff areas
  • Documentation

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