AUSTIN, Texas (May 9, 2006) According to a nationwide survey released today by Whole Foods Market*, Americans eat meat an average of 4.2 times a week — that's 218 times a year. Flavor, safety and humane treatment of animals are the top drivers for choosing high-quality meat and poultry.

Summer grilling season brings the nation's love affair with meat out into the open, with smoky aromas wafting over fences, sending savory signals of rewards in store after a long day of leisure. Survey results show the neighbors' noses are most likely picking up the scent of a plump, juicy chicken breast – as 74 percent of respondents chose chicken as a top pick for the grill. Close favorites include a sizzling steak (66 percent) or the classic, all-American hamburger (60 percent).

With so many meaty meals in store for the season, new twists on old favorites are in order to keep family and friends' appetites soaring as high as the temperatures. Whole Foods Market is helping shoppers shake up summer standbys through new recipes on and online features like a virtual “My Recipes Box” and a three-part educational podcast series about natural meat.

Ideas for adding new cuts onto the coals include:

  • Global Grilling: Seductive spices take taste buds for a trip around the world, and Whole Foods Market's pre-marinated options make Indonesian peanut satays, Middle Eastern kabobs as easy as the traditional burger.
  • Where There's Smoke…: For an inexpensive way to shake old favorites, use a smoker box (a small box with water-soaked wood chips placed inside a gas grill) to impart rich flavor.
  • Cheeseburger in Paradise: Flip that boring old patty wagon off its tired rails by topping buns with blue cheese-stuffed or horseradish-infused beef, Thai spiced turkey or curried pork.
  • The Missing Link: From pork bratwurst to chicken sausage, Whole Foods Market's sausages created in-house make one of the easiest, quickest grilled summer meals.
  • Call That Chicken a Cab: Chicken gets crazily delicious when cooked whole while perched on top of a full, open can of beer on the grill rack. Guests can sip their favorite summer lagers while awaiting El Pollo Loco.
  • Lovable Leftovers: Fido may feel deprived, but that last piece of steak or chicken makes the perfect topping for the next day's salads, pizzas, cold sesame noodles and more.

Naturally Delicious

Survey results show that one way more and more Americans want to spice up their marinated masterpieces is by choosing natural meat. When they go to fire up the grill, 65 percent of Americans want a guarantee that all meat and poultry products are free from added growth hormones and antibiotics, and that the animals were humanely raised. Sixty-one percent of those surveyed felt it important that meat and poultry products' compliance to these standards should be labeled.

Fifty-one percent said having set standards for meat products is a key factor in deciding where to shop for meat. However, when asked if they'd ever purchased products meeting such standards, 51 percent said they were “not sure.”

“The results of this survey tell us that Americans are lacking information about the way their meat and poultry is raised and that having more information is nearly as important as the flavor of the meat they purchase,” said Edmund LaMacchia, vice president of purchasing, perishables, for Whole Foods Market. “This clearly shows there is a strong demand for natural meat as Whole Foods Market defines it: raised without added growth hormones, any antibiotics – ever, no animal byproducts in the feed, and with specific standards for humane treatment through the life of the animal. We believe that natural meat is raised better and truly tastes better.”

Flavor is Tops

While respondents indicated a strong desire for certification of natural and organic standards, another significant survey finding indicates taste tests may be more of a motivator for shoppers to try natural meat than concerns for safety or animal welfare.

When asked what would make them invest more in meat purchases, 77 percent said a guarantee the meat will consistently be the best and most flavorful every time; 59 percent said a guarantee it is coming from a trusted source and raised naturally without growth hormones or antibiotics; and 43 percent chose a guarantee it was raised humanely in optimal living conditions for the species.

“We believe the high-quality feed, less stress and better living conditions lead to a more tender cut of meat and better flavor – a flavor that can be counted on to be consistent. Whole Foods Market's natural meat develops more flavor since it takes longer to raise, so you don't need any elaborate seasonings or marinades,” said Theo Weening, meat coordinator for Whole Foods Market's Mid-Atlantic region. “Whole Foods Market's strict quality standards also mean shoppers can be sure we've done their homework for them.”

With extremely stringent animal welfare standards and a clear, specific definition of “natural meat” in the supermarket industry, Whole Foods Market only sells meat and poultry adhering to its strict standards: no antibiotics, ever; no added growth hormones; humane animal husbandry, handling during transport, and slaughter; no animal byproducts in feed, including feather-meal or rendered fat; and no more than one-third of an animal's life can be spent on a feedlot.

Any facility or ranch raising meat and poultry for Whole Foods Market is required to demonstrate specific standards about raising and handling practices, animal welfare, staff training programs, environmental conditions, labeling, and recall procedures consistent with Whole Foods Market's natural meat program standards. Each facility must also pass an annual on-site inspection.

For more information about Whole Foods Market's natural meat and poultry, visit

*Survey Methodology

Equation conducted the Natural Meats and Poultry Survey commissioned by Whole Foods Market in April 2006. The sample size of the nationally representative online survey was 1,014 Americans aged 25 or older, with a margin of error +/- 3.1 percent. The sample consists of individuals randomly drawn from Equation's licensed, research-only panel, screened for active involvement in food/beverage shopping choices for their family and balanced to be representative of the general population based upon region, gender, age and household income data from the U.S. Census Bureau.