When we decided to implement Global Animal Partnership’s 5-Step Animal Welfare Standards Rating Program, we knew it would make a positive impact for farm animals and the farmers who raise them. Yet, we also knew it would be a lot of work for our vendors, the third-party certifiers and our team members — the unsung backbone of the program. Without our team members helping customers understand the significance of the 5-Step program, it wouldn’t have the impact we all wanted for the farm animals!
That’s a very important piece of the puzzle, so I asked Jim Zola, our Meat Coordinator for 23 stores in Connecticut, New Jersey and New York, to help explain what we did to prepare our team members. Here’s what he had to say: “Our stores have been supplying organic, grass-fed, and local meat programs for a number of years, but the 5-Step Program was a new and entirely different concept! Given the magnitude of the Program (requiring all chicken, beef and pork to be step-rated), I was initially concerned about how we were going to make it happen, but our region stepped up to the plate and figured out what we needed to do to make the Program successful in our stores.
“The first thing we did was set up a training program for all our Team Members. Tate Ramos, our Associate Meat Coordinator/Trainer, did an incredible job of training our Meat Team Members with a 3-hour presentation on the 5-Step Program followed by a written test. From there, we trained our marketing and in-store educators so they could also train all Team Members in the stores. It took us an entire month of traveling to each store to make sure everyone was trained – a big undertaking!
“Aside from helping Team Members to understand this complex animal welfare program, we also had to get them feeling comfortable talking about the standards and what they meant. They were already familiar with our regular claims of no antibiotics, no added hormones and a vegetarian diet, but this 5-Step Program added a whole other layer to our conversations with customers.
“Lastly, we had to re-work our meat signage in all the stores to make sure we gave an accurate and consistent message. This was challenging, but the décor and signage look great now and we also have an awesome brochure that is a useful reference tool for our customers.
“I’ve been working as the Meat Coordinator for this region for 10 years and what I like about this Program is that it shows we really care about how animals were raised and it also clearly demonstrates transparency from farm to fork. For instance, you can buy a pork chop and know that the farm the pig came from was inspected to 110+ different audit points including what age the animal was weaned, that it wasn’t housed in a crate or had its tail docked – no other retailer can tell you that. I firmly believe that the 5-Step Program will change how we look at the way animals are raised for the meat industry.”
Since May 2011, all Whole Foods Market beef, chicken and pork is step-rated. Have you tried it? Tell us what you think!