Retailer Announces New Welfare Codes

US - Whole Foods Market, a retailer specialising in organic and high-welfare foods, has announced that it is providing shoppers with a new level of transparency about how farm animals are raised by now offering beef, pork and chicken certified under the 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating system.
calendar icon 11 February 2011
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The rating system is the signature programme of Global Animal Partnership, a non-profit organization that facilitates and encourages continuous improvement in animal agriculture, says Whole Foods Market. Independent, third-party certifiers audit farms and rate animal welfare practices and conditions using a tiered system that ranges from Step 1 (no crates, cages or crowding) to Step 5+ (animals spend their entire lives on one farm). The company says it is proud to adopt this new rating system that helps shoppers make even more informed buying decisions while offering them peace of mind that the animals from our producers are raised with care.

More than 1,200 farms and ranches that supply the company's stores have received Step certification through independent, third-party certifiers. Colour-coded signs and stickers throughout the meat departments identify these Step ratings. In addition to Step ratings, all meat sold at our stores must meet our strict quality standards, which require that animals be raised on a vegetarian diet without being administered antibiotics or added growth hormones.

It is really important to note that getting to Step 1 is a huge accomplishment in the industry, says Whole Foods Market. Step 1 requires more from our farmers and ranchers than we have ever asked before.

The Global Animal Partnership has developed Step ratings for pigs, chickens and cattle. Ratings for other species (turkeys, lamb, and others) are in development.

5-Step Animal Welfare Rating system

  • Step 1: No crates, no cages, no crowding
    Like people, animals need a little 'personal space' to be comfortable.
  • Step 2: Enriched environment
    It's the simple things that keep animals active and engaged – like a bale of straw for chickens to hide behind and climb on, a bowling ball for pigs to manipulate and shove around, or a few sturdy objects for cattle to rub against when they need a good scratch.
  • Step 3: Enhanced outdoor access
    Pigs and chickens still live in buildings but they all have access to outdoor areas where they can catch a few rays.
  • Step 4: Pasture-centred
    Chickens need to forage, pigs need to wallow and cattle need to roam. They can do all of these things when they live outdoors and have shelter.
  • Step 5: Animal centered; all physical alterations prohibited
    Animals get to live their lives with all the parts they were born with, and nothing else! No clipping, no snipping.
  • Step 5+: Animal centered; entire life on same farm
    Animals are born and live their entire lives on one farm. Pigs and cattle are slaughtered on the farm, and chickens are transported only short distances.
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