AUSTIN, Texas (May 21, 2003) As eager Americans begin firing up their grills this season, Whole Foods Market (NASDAQ: WFMI) is kicking off a national celebration today showcasing the beauty and remarkable flavor of natural meat. The world's largest natural and organic supermarket's 140-plus stores nationwide will offer samples, colorful grilling guides and in-store activities featuring the company's extensive selection of natural beef and poultry, which has been raised to taste better.

“The incredible flavor of our naturally raised meat shines through; it's pure, it's aromatic, and it's delicious,” said Theo Weening, a Whole Foods Market meat coordinator. “Shoppers can really taste the difference. In fact, I'm often told by people that our meat reminds them of how meat 'used to' taste.”

An experienced in-store team of meat experts at Whole Foods Market is always ready to provide cuts to order, cooking tips and personal recommendations like old-fashioned neighborhood butchers. Meat counters showcase custom cuts, including rib-eyes, flank steaks, New York strips, and the promotion's featured Grill Ready Roaster – a modern take on the “Spatched Cock,” an old cooking preparation that splits a whole chicken butterfly-style and skewers it with three skewers to grill flat. Whole Foods Market also features a wide variety of ready-to-cook marinated meats, kabobs and sausages. All of the cuts and grill-ready items are perfect for everyday meals and special occasions alike.

Tips for selecting the perfect cut, grilling ideas and mouthwatering recipes are all included in the “Whole Foods Market Natural Meat Grilling Guide,” available at all stores and online at Tempting recipes range from simple Picture Perfect Steak to exotic Mango Ginger Marinated Pork and scrumptious burgers stuffed with Gorgonzola cheese and smoky bacon. It also outlines the great lengths to which Whole Foods Market goes to ensure its meat and poultry meets the company's stringent quality standards. The comprehensive guide also includes food safety guidelines and facts about why natural meat is a better choice – it is truly raised to taste better.

Standards that are a cut above

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture the label “natural” may be used when products contain no artificial ingredients and are no more than minimally processed. Whole Foods Market takes the definition a step further, requiring all beef and poultry it sells to be: raised without antibiotics; raised without added growth hormones; never fed animal by-products; raised by farmers and ranchers who care about the animals and the quality of the animals' living environment; and raised with strict compliance to the company's strict animal welfare and food safety quality guidelines.

“Mother Nature is the secret to delicious meat,” Weening said. “Growth hormones can increase stress levels for animals, which results in a tougher piece of meat. A humane, free-roaming environment allows the animal to grow slowly and naturally, which results in a tender and delicious end result.”

As a leader in the development of a strict standard for natural meat, Whole Foods Market will host a roundtable discussion on the state of natural meat in New York City on May 28. The company will release data from a new study on consumer opinion on natural meat issues such as the use of antibiotics in meat. The panel will include industry leaders: beef and poultry ranchers; Margaret Mellon, a renowned expert on biotechnology and food safety with the Union of Concerned Scientists; a chef who features natural meat; Whole Foods Market Vice President of Governmental and Public Affairs Margaret Wittenberg; a representative from Hartman; and several experts from Whole Foods Market who work one-on-one with ranchers and farmers to ensure the integrity and quality of every piece of natural meat.

The Whole Foods Market natural meat promotion kicks off May 21st, just in time for Memorial Day, and runs through June 4. Special activities and demonstrations will continue throughout the summer and the great advice and commitment never ends.