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Whole Foods starts animal welfare ratings on meat, poultry

By Rita Jane Gabbett on 2/3/2011

Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods Market officially announced Tuesday it is offering beef, pork and chicken certified under the 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating system. (See “Whole Foods to give meats animal welfare ratings,” onMeatingplace, Sept. 6, 2010.)

The rating system is the signature program of the nonprofit Global Animal Partnership. 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).

According to Whole Foods, the system provides a way to engage and reward producers by promoting continuous improvement in farm animal welfare, and it gives shoppers a way to make more informed choices at the meat counter.
“With an overarching goal to continuously improve the lives of farm animals, Global Animal Partnership’s 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating system is one of the single most impactful programs we have implemented to date at Whole Foods Market,” said A.C. Gallo, president and chief operating officer for Whole Foods Market. “Our customers have long been asking for information on the raising practices on the farms and ranches that provide products to our stores.”

More than 1,200 farms and ranches providing the company’s 291 U.S. locations with products have received Step certification. Color-coded signs and stickers throughout Whole Foods Market meat departments identify these Step ratings.
“Producers need to meet approximately 100 requirements to get a Step 1 certification, so achieving the first level is a remarkable accomplishment,” said Anne Malleau, global animal production and welfare coordinator for Whole Foods Market.

All meat sold at Whole Foods Market must meet the company’s quality standards, which require that animals be raised on a vegetarian diet without being administered antibiotics or added growth hormones, though federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones in raising pork and poultry anyway.
Step-rated options are now available at all U.S. Whole Foods Market stores and by May 9, all beef, pork and chicken carried in the fresh and pre-packaged cases will be rated according to 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating standards. Additional species will be rated as Global Animal Partnership standards are completed.

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