Animal Welfare Basics

Helping you make informed choices about the meat you eat.

Whole Foods Market has been improving quality standards for meat since we opened our first meat counter back in 1981.

Our meat departments are stocked with an incredible selection of meat and poultry from farmers, ranchers and suppliers dedicated to meeting our strict Animal Welfare Standards. Before we do any purchasing, we’ve done the research to know where the animal comes from along with how it was raised and treated.

Hormones & Growth Promotants

Our quality standards have always prohibited the administration of hormones of any type to animals raised for meat, including beef cattle and lamb (the only two species for which the USDA permits the use of hormones). Beta agonists, which are used to enhance growth and develop lean muscle tissue in livestock, are also prohibited. This means no growth-enhancing drugs.


We believe that good management practices are the best way to maintain animal health.  From the beginning we prohibited the use of subtherapeutic antibiotics, including ionophores, which are medications used on a regular basis to prevent disease and to promote growth. 

Over the years, many of our producers innovated and learned to use alternative remedies that they found effective in treating animals.  So, in 2002 we deepened our standards to prohibit therapeutic antibiotics, which are used for treating disease or infection. However, 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, but those animals cannot be sold to Whole Foods Market®.

Farm Animal & Meat Quality Standards

From principles of animal husbandry to food safety practices, we support innovative production systems.  We form partnerships with our suppliers and have standards for how animals are raised and handled for every step of the process from farm to slaughter. Each slaughter plant is required to undergo an annual 3rd party audit for animal welfare and food safety.

Animal Welfare

We are committed to and focus on animal welfare for all species of animals raised for our meat department. We have had standards in place since 1981 and work diligently with our suppliers to continually improve and evolve these requirements.

In 2002 we expanded our animal welfare standards on farms and ranches by adding species-specific requirements. We also began working with world-renowned animal-welfare scientist and expert Dr. Temple Grandin to develop and implement audit criteria for animal welfare from the time the animals leave the farm through slaughter. 

Plus! The 5-Step® Animal Welfare Rating

We work with the Global Animal Partnership to rate our beef, pork, chicken and turkey producers' animal welfare practices. We require all farms and ranches that sell to our fresh meat department raising these species to be certified to the 5-Step® Animal Welfare Rating. The 5-Step ratings were launched in every Whole Foods Market store in the United States and Canada in 2011.