I’m really excited to announce that we are 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. The rating system is the signature program of Global Animal Partnership, a nonprofit organization that facilitates and encourages continuous improvement in animal agriculture. 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). 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 that supply our stores have received Step certification through independent, third-party certifiers. Color-coded signs and stickers throughout our 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's really important to note that getting to Step 1 is a huge accomplishment in the industry! 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, so stay tuned. Look for this rating system the next time you stop by our meat department for beef, pork or chicken. It's your way of knowing how the animals were raised for the meat you are buying.
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 — yes, each and every one of them — have access to outdoor areas where they can catch a few rays.
Step 4: Pasture centered 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 — and of course, a view!
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 (because you can't herd chickens!).
See our Frequently Asked Questions about the 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating™. For more detailed information on each Step, and species-specific welfare information, visit the Global Animal Partnership website.
What do you think? Are you going to give Step-rated meat a try the next time you visit your local store? At Whole Foods Market, the more you know about our meat, the better.