Our Standard for Eggs: Beyond Cage-Free

We believe in better welfare for laying hens. All the eggs in our dairy cases and our own kitchens are cage-free or better.

At Whole Foods Market, we’re doing more for the hens that are doing so much for us. All the eggs in our dairy cases and our own kitchens must be cage free or better. Because when chickens behave naturally, they naturally lay great eggs.

Let’s Get Real About Eggs

We go above and beyond to make shopping for better eggs in our stores easy for you. When it comes to better welfare for our birds, we’ve been ahead of the curve for nearly two decades:

2004: We began selling only cage-free eggs in our dairy cases.

2005: We went cage-free in our own kitchens and bakeries.

2017: We launched our Animal Welfare Standards for Laying Hens with our 365 by Whole Foods Market carton eggs.

2020: All eggs in our U.S. dairy cases must meet our Animal Welfare Standards for Laying Hens, which include these basic requirements:

  • Hens have room to roam and scratch about

  • No antibiotics given to hens

  • No land-animal by-products in hen feed

  • Nests and perches for hens to roost at night

  • Hens provided with foraging material

Animal Welfare Standards for Laying Hens

Our Animal Welfare Standards for Laying Hens were developed after more than 500 visits to laying farms and consultations with farmers, poultry geneticists, pullet growers and animal welfare scientists. The standards are designed to improve the level of animal welfare and meet the expectations of our customers.

All eggs in our dairy cases are tagged with one of these four logos that indicate how the chickens live.

Our Four Production Systems

Our standards define four unique production systems. It’s important to understand that no one system is better than the other, but rather each one achieves animal welfare through different methods. Farmers choose their production system based on climate and their farm’s unique environment. We audit each farm on a 15-month interval to ensure compliance and to see the farm in all seasons over the course of time.

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Cage-Free Plus

For our Cage-Free Plus label, we require that hens have living conditions to support natural behaviors, such as dust bathing and foraging. Hens are given space to move about the house freely, are provided with perches for roosting at night (their preferred sleeping method), have places to shelter from aggressive hens, and are provided bedding material on the floor. They might live entirely in housing or have access to an outdoor area.

Outdoor Access

All Cage-Free Plus standards must be met for our Outdoor Access label. In addition, for this label we require an area outside the barn that is at least as big as the space inside. There must be adequate openings in the barn for the hens to move easily between indoors and outdoors. Water must be provided outdoors. Shade and cover has to accommodate at least 25% of the birds in the flock and be visible from the doors of the house so the hens see that they can get to sheltered areas while foraging.

Pasture Raised

Our Pasture Raised label is for hens that have access to pasture all day throughout the year. There must be sufficient cover/shade to accommodate 50% of the flock. The cover/shade must be visible from the doors of the house. We have strict vegetation requirements for either grassland or rangeland (bushes, trees, tall vegetation) in the pasture so the hens can forage productively.

Outdoor Living

For our Outdoor Living label, hens must live outdoors 12 months a year with mobile units or small permanent houses for laying eggs, roosting at night and shelter from storms. Throughout the year, there must be at least 75% rooted vegetative cover on grassland or ample rangeland areas to provide continual supply of bugs, seeds, edible plants and other attractions for the hens throughout the year. Cover and shade must accommodate 100% of the birds. Beak trimming is prohibited.

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