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Meat Department Quality Standards

Traceable to farm or ranch. No antibiotics, ever, and no added growth hormones. Because better meat is our commitment to you.

Whether it’s grass-fed beef or air-chilled chicken, you deserve to feel good about the meat you’re buying. For meat and poultry throughout our Meat department, our standards and strong relationships with farmers and ranchers mean we know where the animals were raised. We also care about how animals are raised — and we’ve developed our rigorous standards with their welfare in mind.

What Makes Our Meat Different?

  • Transparency and traceability to farm or ranch.
  • No antibiotics, ever.
  • No added growth hormones.*
  • 100+ animal welfare standards for fresh beef, pork, lamb, chicken and turkey.

Our Baseline Standards

Our baseline requirements for our Meat department are stronger than most anywhere. If it doesn’t meet our standards, we won’t sell it.

  • No antibiotics, ever. If an animal needs antibiotic treatment, it is separated from those bought by our Meat department.
  • No added growth hormones through feed, injections, implants or any other method. (Federal regulations allow the use of hormones when raising cattle and lambs, but we don't.)
  • No animal by-products in feed, including feather meal or rendered fat.
  • Beef cattle, sheep and goats must spend at least two-thirds of their life on pasture.
  • No crates, cages or tethers permitted.
  • Animal producers must meet our standards for how the animals are raised, transported and slaughtered.
  • A traceable audit system is required that tracks animals from birth to slaughter.
  • Required inspections for animal welfare at slaughter, using criteria and areas of evaluation developed by Dr. Temple Grandin.

Animal Welfare Certified Meats

All fresh beef, pork, chicken, lamb and turkey (except kosher turkey) in our Meat department is certified to meet 100+ animal welfare standards by the Global Animal Partnership. Founded in 2008, Global Animal Partnership’s tiered system not only gives you the knowledge to make informed food choices, it provides farmers and ranchers with a road map to improve their welfare practices.

Below are the descriptions you’ll find on Animal Welfare Certified items. From Base Certification to Step 5+, each step has its own requirements that must be met before authorized, independent certifiers can assign a level of certification.

Animal-Specific Standards

We hold all of our meat to high standards. But different animals have different welfare needs, and we strive to address those as well. Here are some ways in which the many types of meats we sell are held to specific standards:

Chicken

From organic, kosher or air-chilled fresh chicken to frozen gluten-free chicken nuggets, each of our stores offers its own selection for everyday and special occasions. Our fresh chicken must meet our basic Meat department standards and be Animal Welfare Certified.

  • On poultry products (chicken and turkey) you may see the phrase, “Complete Traceability to Farms.” This means further steps were taken to ensure that specific traceability procedures are in place at each step of the supply chain.

Beef

We’re pleased to offer the best selection of beef around with organic, grass-fed, local, dry-aged and grain-finished choices. Every option is high quality with great flavor. All of our fresh beef must meet our basic Meat department standards and be Animal Welfare Certified.

  • No supplemental growth hormones
  • Raised on pasture or range for at least two-thirds of the animal's life

Pork

We work with dedicated farms and producers to make sure that our pork is the best, whether it’s for everyday meals or your special celebrations. From thick-cut pork chops to organic ground pork, each of our stores offers its own selection for everyday and special occasions. All of our fresh pork must meet our Meat department standards and be Animal Welfare Certified and include the following:

  • No gestation stalls or farrowing (birthing) crates
  • Bedding required in housing
  • No supplemental growth hormones

Turkey

Heritage, heirloom, organic, kosher — these are just a few words that describe our extensive selection of turkeys. Each of our stores offers its own selection for everyday and special occasions. All of our fresh turkey (except kosher turkey) must meet our Meat department standards and be Animal Welfare Certified, plus the following:

  • Appropriate litter provided for comfort and to satisfy natural foraging instincts
  • On poultry products (chicken and turkey) you may see the phrase, “Complete Traceability to Farms.” This means further steps were taken to ensure that specific traceability procedures are in place at each step of the supply chain.

Lamb

Perfect for burgers, oven roasting or grilling — lamb is a versatile meat for everyday and special occasions. From an impressive grass-fed rack of lamb to seasoned lamb sausages, all of our fresh lamb must meet our Meat department standards and be Animal Welfare Certified, which includes the following:

  • No added growth hormones
  • Raised on pasture or range for at least two-thirds of the animal's life

Veal

From tender cutlets to organic ground veal, each of our stores offers its own selection for everyday and special occasions. Our standards prohibit calves being kept in individual stalls or crates, so they have social interactions with other animals. And the meat is exceptional, tender and versatile. Our veal must meet our Meat department standards and adhere to the following:

  • No supplemental growth hormones*
  • No animal by-products in feed other than cow’s milk
  • Pasture-raised or group housing only; no tethering or individual crates
  • Provided with grass/forages and grain.

Bacon, Ham, Sausage, Hot Dogs and Frozen Foods

Our bacon, hot dogs and sausages meet our basic Meat department standards and are made without synthetic nitrates or nitrites. All frozen items in our Meat department, including breaded chicken nuggets, breakfast sausages and more, must meet our standards as well.

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.*

Behind the Scenes: Our Meat Department

Watch these videos to learn more about some of our meat suppliers and products that go above and beyond.

Thompson Farms

Take a tour of Thompson Farms, a family-owned hog farm in Georgia that supplies pork to Whole Foods Market and is Animal Welfare Certified to Step 5+ entire life on farm.

365 by Whole Foods Market Bacon

Learn how Whole Foods Market makes its small-batch artisan bacon, which meets our basic Meat department standards and is free of synthetic nitrites or nitrates.

*There are no hormones approved for use in the production of poultry, goat, veal calves, mature sheep or exotic, non-amenable species (such as bison, buffalo, elk and venison).

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