AUSTIN, Tex. (May 14, 2013) – Memorial Day is America’s unofficial kick-off to summer grilling season and for many people, meat is on the menu. To recognize farmers and ranchers that raise animals with respect, Whole Foods Market is celebrating May 20-27 as Animal Welfare Week.

In stores nationwide, the company is calling out its commitment to animal welfare and working to educate customers about how the way an animal is raised affects the taste of the meat. Many stores will host events, including regional Best Butcher contests to showcase local producers and the skilled craftsmanship of Whole Foods Market’s meat cutters. Events are listed on store pages at

“When an animal is raised the way nature intended, the meat tastes better. It has more flavor because the animals lived like animals ought to live – with consideration of their natural preferences and behaviors,” said Theo Weening, Whole Foods Market’s global meat buyer. “With Animal Welfare Week, we’re highlighting the suppliers and practices that make a better life for the animals – as well as better meat for our fresh cases.”

Since 2008, Whole Foods Market has partnered with Global Animal Partnership (GAP). The company uses GAP’s 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating to indicate to customers how the animals were raised for the beef, pork, chicken or turkey they are buying. The tiered system rates animal welfare practices and conditions from Step 1 to Step 5+. To get certified to the program (earn a Step 1 rating) farmers must satisfy more than 120 requirements that define the animals’ environment; their ability to perform normal behavior; handling, transport, diet and more. At each higher Step level, standards build upon those defined in the previous level. The detailed standards are listed at

“Many of our supplier partners have built animal-centered systems,” said Anne Malleau, Whole Foods Market’s assistant global meat coordinator. “For example, Pitman Farms in California uses mobile chicken houses for their Step 5 birds so they always have fresh pasture for foraging. And at Thompson Farms in Georgia, pigs always have lots of pasture and wallows so they can cool off in the hot summer sun.”

For more information about Whole Foods Market’s commitment to animal welfare, visit