AUSTIN, Texas (Feb. 2, 2011) — Whole Foods Market (NASDAQ: WFMI) is providing shoppers with a new level of transparency about how farm animals are raised by now offering beef, pork and chicken certified under

the 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating system.

The rating system is the signature program of Global Animal Partnership, a nonprofit organization that facilitates and encourages continuous improvement in animal agriculture. Independent, third-party certifiers audit farms and rate animal welfare practices and conditions using a tiered system that ranges from Step 1 (no crates, cages or crowding) to Step 5+ (animals spend their entire lives on one farm). The system provides a way to engage and reward producers by promoting continuous improvement in farm animal welfare, and it gives shoppers a way to make more informed choices at the meat counter.

“With an overarching goal to continuously improve the lives of farm animals, Global Animal Partnership’s 5- Step Animal Welfare Rating system is one of the single most impactful programs we have implemented to date at Whole Foods Market,” said A.C. Gallo, president and chief operating officer for Whole Foods Market. “Our customers have long been asking for information on the raising practices on the farms and ranches that provide products to our stores. We are proud to adopt this new rating system that helps shoppers make even more informed buying decisions while offering them peace of mind that the animals from our producers are raised with care.”

More than 1,200 farms and ranches providing the company’s 291 U.S. locations with products have received Step certification through independent, third-party certifiers. Color-coded signs and stickers throughout Whole Foods Market meat departments identify these Step ratings.

“In my 20 years of working with ranchers and farmers, this is the largest commitment to improving farm animal welfare that I have seen. Producers need to meet approximately 100 requirements to get a Step 1 certification, so achieving the first level is a remarkable accomplishment,” said Anne Malleau, global animal production and welfare coordinator for Whole Foods Market. “Whole Foods Market is able to adopt the 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating system thanks to the true partnerships we have with our producers who put just as much emphasis on the lives of their farm animals as they do on ensuring high-quality products.”

All meat sold at Whole Foods Market must meet the company’s strict quality standards, which require that animals be raised on a vegetarian diet without being administered antibiotics or added growth hormones*. Step-rated options are now available at all U.S. Whole Foods Market stores and by May 9, all beef, pork and chicken carried in the fresh and pre-packaged cases will be rated according to 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating standards. Additional species will be rated as Global Animal Partnership standards are completed.

“I’m so honored that Global Animal Partnership was able to work with Whole Foods Market as our pilot partner. Their commitment to fully adopting our 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating program is definitely going to have a significant and positive impact on animal agriculture – to the benefit of farmers and ranchers, consumers and the animals themselves,” said Miyun Park, executive director for Global Animal Partnership. “We’re already in discussions with other grocers and restaurateurs, who, like Whole Foods Market, are dedicated to improving the welfare of farm animals.”

*Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones in raising pork and poultry.

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