This Thanksgiving, thanks to Global Animal Partnership’s (GAP) 5-Step™ Animal Welfare Rating, Whole Foods Market shoppers can know exactly how turkeys were raised for their holiday meals. Whole Foods Market is the first national retailer to offer full transparency in regards to raising practices for turkeys sold in the meat department.

Global Animal Partnership is a multi-stakeholder non-profit aiming to improve farm animal welfare by setting guidelines for raising practices and animal management in the form of the tiered 5-Step system. Whole Foods Market began using 5-Step ratings in 2011 on beef, pork and chicken sold in meat departments to provide customers with information about the way animals were raised. This year, GAP announced new standards for turkey.

At Step 1, animals are raised without crates, cages or crowding plus more than 100 other requirements. Beyond Step 1, each successive Step requires more animal-focused practices. Customers can review the complete standards online or review a condensed version in brochures available in stores. The basics of the program for beef, pork, chicken and turkey are:

·        Step 1: no crates, cages, no crowding
·        Step 2: enriched environment (things to do!)
·        Step 3: enhanced outdoor access
·        Step 4: pasture centered
·        Step 5: animal centered, no physical alterations.
·        Step 5+: animal centered, entire life on the same farm

Whole Foods Market’s quality standards for all meat also require that animals are raised without antibiotics.

“What makes the GAP program unique is that it outlines minimum animal welfare standards for our suppliers, provides transparency for our customers, and explains incremental changes suppliers can make to continue improving the lives of their animals,” said Anne Malleau, assistant global meat coordinator for Whole Foods Market. “Animals raised in an environment that encourages them to perform their natural behaviors are animals ‘raised to taste better.’”

Whole Foods Market’s trained butchers can help shoppers choose the best bird for their budget – from frozen turkeys, raised this season to reach the perfect size then processed and stored just above the freezing point; to fresh brined kosher; organic; or heritage or heirloom turkeys, raised for their remarkable flavor. Find a turkey carving guide on the Whole Story blog, and recipes at