Whole Foods Market has announced that all fresh beef, pork and chicken sold in its U.S. stores is now certified under the 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating system, providing shoppers with a new depth of information about how farm animals are raised. The company is working to certify further processed meats like bacon and ham to the rating system.
According to a Whole Foods press release, the 5-Step Animal Welfare rating system, a signature program of the nonprofit Global Animal Partnership, is aimed to address concerns about farm animal welfare.
The rating system identifies incrementally higher welfare practices and conditions within farm animal production systems. Independent third-party certifiers audit and rate farms" animal welfare practices and conditions using a tiered system of Steps 1 to 5+:
Step 1: No cages, no crates, no crowding
Step 2: Enriched environment
Step 3: Enhanced outdoor access
Step 4: Pasture centered
Step 5: Animal centered; no physical alterations
Step 5+: Animal centered; entire life on the same farm
Whole Foods Market is the first retailer to adopt the 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating system. With the goal of improving the lives of farm animals, the company began rolling out the system in February 2011. Now, all fresh beef, pork and chicken sold in its U.S. stores meat departments carry a Step certification.
Signs and stickers throughout Whole Foods Market meat departments identify these Step ratings.
To date, more than 1,300 farms and ranches have been certified.
"Whole Foods Market has worked hand-in-hand with our producers for many years to encourage a humane approach to raising animals. Now, the 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating system provides a way to engage and reward these producers by promoting continuous improvement in farm animal welfare," said Anne Malleau, global animal production and welfare coordinator for Whole Foods Market. "This rating system also informs our customers about how the animals are raised for the meat they are buying."
All meat sold at Whole Foods Market must meet the company's strict quality standards, which require that animals be raised on a vegetarian diet without being administered antibiotics or added growth hormones*. The company is working to certify further processed meats like bacon and ham to the rating system.
The company also said it plans to rate additional species as Global Animal Partnership standards are completed.