Whole Foods launches animal welfare rating
By Christina Williams
Editor, Sustainable Business Oregon
Whole Foods Market launched a new animal welfare rating system throughout its stores this month, providing its carnivore consumers some peace of mind concerning the way animals were treated prior to taking up residence in store coolers.
The 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating system was developed by the Global Animal Partnership, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit focused on improving animal agriculture.
The tiered rating system, put together in partnership with Whole Foods, applies to poultry, beef and pigs and gives an insight into how animals were treated. The minimal "Step 1" rating indicates no cages, crates or crowding. A Step 3 means enhanced outdoor access. The highest rating, Step 5+, indicates an "animal-centered" farm, with the animal's entire life spent on one farm.
More than 1,200 farms that supply to Whole Foods stores have been rated by the system.
"You cannot be in any of our stores unless you participate in this rating system," said Jason Valdez, Whole Foods marketing and merchandising coordinator in Portland.
Videos on the Whole Foods meat website featuring happy pigs, chickens and cows explain the rating system to consumers.
Country Natural Beef, the Oregon-based ranch cooperative that supplies pasture-raised beef to stores and restaurants, is featured on the Global Animal Partnership's website as one of the suppliers certified by the program.
Quoted on the site, Dan Probert, executive director of Country Natural Beef, said, "The 5-Step program has given Country Natural Beef a unique opportunity to tell our story of how our animals are raised in a quantified, objective way. We may be doing a great job taking care of our animals, but if no one knows who we are, what our welfare practices are or that a third-party is auditing us, the marketability of that humane care is limited and we—and our customers—are worse off."
Country Natural Beef received a Step 4 rating.
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