Feb 21 2011

Whole Foods Animal Welfare Labeling

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Last month Whole Foods started a new animal-welfare labeling program.

The labels rank foods based on how the animal was treated before it is slaughtered. For example, a steak would earn a “step 1″ rating if the animal spent two-thirds of its life on pasture or rangeland, but a 5 if it spent its entire life on pasture or rangeland.

According to Whole Foods, the labels are in response to consumer demand. A study by the Chicago food industry research firm Technomic revealed that more than half of consumers believe animal welfare is among the most important social issues in the food business. A survey financed by the American Farm Bureau Federation showed that 89% of consumers believe companies that require farmers to improve animal care “are doing the right thing.”

In September the chain initiated a similar program for its seafood department. Fish was ranked from best (green sticker) to worst (red sticker) depending on if the fish were caught and raised in sustainable ways, if they were caught using harmful methods etc. The chain has committed to removing all ‘red’ labeled items from its stores by 2013.

This is a great step toward getting people more connected with their food. I think it will help give people a little nudge toward thinking about the fact that the meat they are going to purchase came from a living, breathing animal who knows pleasure and pain.

It will also encourage farmers to treat their animals more humanely. Yes, it’s kind of an oxymoron to say farmers will treat their animals more humanely since they are being raised to be killed, but let’s face it, the world is not going to be veg overnight.

Baby steps……

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