Whole Foods Market in the U.S. has announced that it will begin certifying beef, pork and chicken products under the 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating Standards that tracks how animals were raised.
The Step program was developed by Washington, D.C.-based Global Animal Partnership, a non-profit organization founded in 2008, whose membership includes farmers, ranchers, scientists, animal advocates and retailers.
The initiative recognizes producers for good animal welfare practices through a tiered system (ranging from Step 1 – no crates, cages or crowding – to Step 5+ – the animal has spent its entire life on one farm), and encourages continuous improvement. Products are audited and certified by independent third-party certification companies.
“Our customers have long been asking for information on the raising practices on the farms and ranches that provide products to our stores,” says A.C. Gallo, president and COO for Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods Market. “We are 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 supplying meat to Whole Foods have now received Step certification. According to the natural foods retailer, even reaching Step 1 involves meeting approximately 100 requirements.
Whole Foods will identify the Step ratings on meat with signs and stickers throughout its meat departments. By May 9, the store says all fresh and pre-packaged beef, chicken and pork products in its 291 U.S. locations will be rated. Whole Foods also notes that more species will be added as Global Animal Partnership standards are completed.