A Step Forward in Chicken Welfare

When we decided to implement Global Animal Partnership’s 5-Step™ Animal Welfare Standards Rating Program opens in a new tab, we knew it would make a positive impact for farm animals and the farmers who raise them. In addition to these 5-Step standards, Whole Foods Market has strict animal welfare requirements for all slaughter plants that process the meat we sell.

Not only is each plant audited annually by trained third party auditors to a set of strict criteria, but they are then reviewed and approved by our own in-house team of experts in animal welfare and food safety. Bell & Evans opens in a new tab, one of our national chicken suppliers, has taken these requirements a step further and implemented an alternative way to process chicken: Slow Induction Anesthesia (SIA), also known as controlled-atmosphere stunning.

Scott Sechler, owner of Bell & Evans, spent 15 years researching the best way to process chickens. He toured many European processing plants and analyzed their controlled-atmosphere stunning systems before building his own custom version.

The system at Bell & Evans uses carbon dioxide to gently render the birds unconscious – birds are kept in the modular crates that they were loaded into at the farm and moved into the SIA tunnel. When they come out at the end of the tunnel, they are unconscious and are then processed without pain, suffering or stress.

Professor Temple Grandin, a leading authority and well-respected livestock expert, consulted with Bell & Evans as the company worked to design its system. She said it was better because the chickens were not aware of what was happening to them. “Birds don’t like being hung upside down,” Grandin said. “...This (SIA process) is a big step forward in chicken welfare.” Scott says, “Our (Bell & Evans) system is designed so that we put them to sleep without stress,” and as a direct result of this process Scott believes that their meat is a higher quality. Animal advocacy groups including the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) support the Bell & Evans method of stunning. They agree that by listening to consumers, Bell & Evans has set a new standard for the chicken industry. You can find Bell & Evans frozen chicken in our stores nationwide and fresh chicken is sold in select stores – make sure to ask your butcher.

Knowing how animals are processed might be difficult to think about, but we know our customers recognize it’s an important topic to discuss, so tell us what you think!

Photo courtesy of Bell & Evans

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