Whole Foods Market has certified all its fresh poultry pork and beef sold in its U.S. stores under the 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating system, which identifies incrementally higher welfare practices and conditions within farm animal production systems.

The system uses independent third-party certifiers to 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 is the first retailer to adopt the system, and began rolling it out 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. "Whole Foods Market has worked hand-in-hand with our producers for many years to encourage a humane approach to raising animals," said Anne Malleau, global animal production and welfare coordinator. "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. This rating system also informs our customers about how the animals are raised for the meat they are buying."


The company said its next step is to certify further processed meats like bacon and ham to the system.