AUSTIN, Texas, May 10, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Whole Foods Market (Nasdaq: WFM) today announced 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.
Aimed to address growing concerns about farm animal welfare, the 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating system is the signature program of the nonprofit Global Animal Partnership. 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 that ranges from Step 1 (no crates, cages, or crowding) to Step 5+ (animals spend their entire lives on one 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. To date, more than 1,300 farms and ranches have been certified, which means that approximately 140 million farm animals are raised in welfare-focused environments. Signs and stickers throughout Whole Foods Market meat departments identify these Step ratings.
"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 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating system. Additional species will be rated as Global Animal Partnership standards are completed.
*Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones in raising pork and poultry.
Contact: Elizabeth Smith, Elizabeth.Smith@wholefoods.com, +1-512-542-0380
SOURCE Whole Foods Market