Animal Welfare Basics

Our Standards for How the Animals Are Raised

If you’re looking for more than great taste and freshness in meat and poultry, we’re here for you. We believe that quality on the table has a lot to do with quality of care in raising the animals. Over decades we’ve developed true partnerships with farmers, ranchers and animal-welfare experts to ensure the treatment of animals is guided by care, responsibility and respect. 

No Added Hormones

Giving hormones to animals raised for meat accelerates their growth, getting animals to market faster and reducing feed costs. We believe that good management and focus on the animals' well-being is all the growth incentive they need! Our quality standards for our meat department have always prohibited the administration of hormones. This includes for beef cattle and lamb, the only two species for which the USDA permits the use of hormones. Beta agonists, which are used to enhance the development of lean muscle tissue in livestock, are also prohibited.

No Antibiotics, Ever

Farm animals are given antibiotics for different reasons. Some producers administer them regularly to prevent disease and promote growth. This is an unnecessary practice that we have always prohibited for products in our meat department. In 2002, we deepened our meat department standards to also prohibit antibiotics for treating disease or infection. The health of livestock is maintained by good management, including innovative practices and alternative remedies found effective in treating animals. To ensure that sick animals do not suffer, if an injury or illness does not respond to alternative methods, we require that the animal is treated; however, the meat from that animal cannot be sold to Whole Foods Market meat department.

Animal Care

Caring for farm animals goes beyond prohibiting antibiotics and added hormones. We also take into account the comfort, physical safety and health of the animals. For everything in our meat department, we require producers to verify that their practices meet our requirements. Our meat standards outline our requirements, species by species. For fresh beef, pork, chicken, lamb and turkey (except kosher turkey), we require certification by Global Animal Partnership’s 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating, which encourages and rewards farmers and ranchers for continually improving their animal-welfare practices. We require kosher turkey farms to be third-party audited to meet our animal welfare standards. 

We also have animal welfare standards for hens that lay eggs. All eggs we offer in our dairy case are cage-free, and we’re going beyond that with our Whole Foods Market Animal Welfare Standards for Laying Hens. All eggs used in our own kitchens and bakeries are cage-free, too.


The way farm animals are raised and treated on the farm or ranch is only part of the story. We also require third-party audits of animal welfare at slaughter plants. The criteria and areas of evaluation were developed by animal-welfare expert Dr. Temple Grandin, and they include:

  • Condition of animals upon arrival
  • Calm, efficient unloading procedures
  • Animals handled with patience, skill and respect
  • Well-designed and –maintained facility ensuring quiet movement of animals
  • Non-slip flooring and ramps to reduce the risk of injury to the animals
  • Critical stunning efficacy requirements
    • 99% successful stun at first attempt
    • 100% of animals unconscious before slaughter
  • Proper condition and upkeep, plus regular testing of all equipment

What Else Makes Our Meat Different

Our meat department has some of the strongest standards in the business, and in our stores. Here’s more info about what goes into our high-quality meat and poultry.