At Whole Foods Market, we’ve long maintained rigorous Quality Standards for farm animal welfare, and we believe our customers deserve to be informed about the meat they’re buying. We care about how animals are raised and take the issue of broiler chicken welfare seriously.
As part of our commitment to animal welfare, the chicken we sell across our Fresh Meat Department and found in Prepared Foods items made in-store is certified by the Global Animal Partnership opens in a new tab to meet 100+ animal welfare requirements, including a maximum stocking density of 6.0 lbs/ft2, providing birds with enriched environments, maintaining well managed litter (bedding) and lighting that is >50 lux either through lights and/or natural lighting. And we require 3rd party auditing on every farm and abattoir we source from to verify these requirements are being met. Whole Foods Market recognizes the welfare issues experienced by conventional broiler chicken breeds and we have been a vocal supporter of G.A.P.’s Better Chicken Project opens in a new tab, which has established a research-based protocol for evaluating broiler chicken breeds based on behavior, meat quality, production and consistently superior welfare outcomes. In October 2022, Whole Foods Market became the first retailer to offer chickens raised through the program, which are available in every Whole Foods Market region in the United States. We will continue to look for ways to adopt higher welfare breeds in our supply chain in partnership with our suppliers, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other industry experts.
We’re also working with our fresh chicken suppliers to transition to controlled atmosphere processing systems (CAS). Our first supplier completed this transition in 2012, and since then our suppliers providing over 82% of the fresh chicken that can be found in both our Meat and Prepared Foods Departments as well as our private label products have transitioned to CAS processing systems. We continue to work with our remaining suppliers to utilize humane slaughter practices, with the goal of transitioning 100% of our chicken suppliers (except for the supplier categories outlined below) to CAS by 2026. Our intention is to see continuous improvement, and we will report each year on our progress.
Small suppliers, which are defined as processing 250,000 or fewer birds per week and very small suppliers, which are defined as processing 20,000 or fewer birds per week will be exempt from this goal as current CAS systems can be prohibitively expensive. These small and very small suppliers represent no more than 5% of our fresh chicken supply and are still required to meet our additional animal welfare and processing standards, as well as the avoidance of live dumping, which demonstrate a strong commitment to outcome-based animal welfare and go beyond standard industry practices. We will continue to monitor the evolution of CAS systems and work with our smaller suppliers to adopt CAS if it becomes financially viable at some point in the future. Kosher poultry suppliers will also be exempt, as the tenets of Kosher slaughter do not allow for pre-slaughter stunning.
We will continue to have third-party auditing of all our suppliers to higher-than-industry best practice animal welfare standards.
Originally published on December 15, 2020. Updated on April 28, 2023.