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Step by Step Improving Animal Welfare

Learn how our meat producers work to enhance the living conditions for animals on their farms, which increases their 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating.

We’ve been blogging about the 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating Standards Program for several months now. We are very pleased that around 1400 farms and ranches that supply our stores with pork, chicken and beef have been Step-rated! And one of the great things about Global Animal Partnership’s Step rating system is that it encourages producers to afford their animals even higher welfare and to achieve even higher Step levels. Today, I want to tell you about two suppliers who successfully upgraded their farms before undergoing their second certification cycles and achieved higher Step ratings — good news for the animals as well as for those of us who care.

Petaluma Poultry raises chickens on the West Coast and initially achieved a Step 2 (More Enriched Environment) rating for their farms. Lyle Johnston, Director of Live Production for Petaluma Poultry, and his team decided to work with their farms to successfully achieve Step 3 (Enhanced Outdoor Access) status. “We already provided our birds outdoor access, but we needed to modify the outdoor area to get a Step 3. So, we installed awnings along the length of each chicken house to give the birds shade, provided hay bales for them to jump on and peck at, half-barrels for them to shelter in and also left areas of high grass to encourage the birds to roam and forage. The biggest thing for us was installing the awnings for about 150 houses. It took us about 6 months to do but at the end of the day what we really liked about the conversions is that you actually see the birds using the outdoor environment.”

Mark Faille, owner of Simply Grazin’ Organic Farm, supplies our East coast stores with Step-rated beef, chicken and pork. One of their pig farms was rated a Step 2 (More Enriched Environment) but, after working with Mark, achieved a Step 4 (Pasture Centered) rating. Mark says, “This farm basically had an indoor pig system, but after we brought the farmer to see our own working farm in New York State, he wanted to convert his farm to a pasture system. It took some work: we had to convert his building to provide an access door, set up pasture paddocks and then work with him on pasture rotation management. All in all it took about 6 months, but I know that the farmer is very happy that we showed him a different way. All he knew was how his father had done things and, overall, he sees that by having the pigs outside on pasture, they are healthier and happier.” Mark also explains that “to support our small group of farms, we actually have a dedicated person to help with the paperwork and compliance with the Program and we are using our farm as a model farm to show our group good management practices that will achieve higher step ratings.”

These are just a couple of examples of suppliers who are making changes to their farms and improving the lives of their farm animals. Whole Foods Market is very excited that we’ve adopted the 5-Step Program and as it continues to develop, we anticipate that these transitions to higher Step levels will continue to grow too. We’d love to hear what you think about the Program!

Blog Updated on 2/20/2015.

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