AUSTIN, Texas (June 28, 2016) – Today Whole Foods Market (NASDAQ: WFM) and Global Animal Partnership (GAP), creator of North America’s most comprehensive farm animal welfare standards, accepted a Special Recognition award from Compassion in World Farming (CIFW), an international nonprofit that promotes farm animal welfare. The award recognizes the commitment that Whole Foods Market and GAP have made to offering only slower-growing chicken breeds by 2024.

In March 2016, GAP announced its intention over the next eight years to replace fast-growing chicken breeds with slower-growing breeds within its 5-Step® Rating Program, and Whole Foods Market pledged to support the initiative.

“Whole Foods Market is proud to share this award with Global Animal Partnership, in recognition of our joint commitment to improving farm animal welfare,” said Theo Weening, global meat buyer for Whole Foods Market. “We’ve been committed to improving quality standards for meat since we opened our first meat counter in 1981. We were the first national grocer to use the 5-Step Animal Welfare Program in 2011 and are proud to get behind their effort to raise the bar on chicken welfare standards.”

More than 600 chicken farms currently use the GAP standard, affecting the lives of 277 million chickens annually and making it the most significant higher welfare farm animal standard in the United States. As a major retailer featuring meat certified under GAP’s 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating Program, the support and commitment of Whole Foods Market was crucial in enabling GAP’s pledge.

“GAP chicken farmers have pioneered animal welfare in North America,” said Anne Malleau, executive director for GAP. “By addressing fast growth in chickens, we will be getting to the root of the welfare problem facing chickens today.”

CIFW recognized Whole Foods Market in 2015 with a Good Sow Commendation and a Global Good Egg Award for the company’s animal welfare practices. Compassion in World Farming uses its Good Farm Animal Welfare Awards to recognize market-leading companies for their current policies or commitments, which result in positive impacts on farm animal welfare across their supply chains.

“This joint commitment paves the way for major change to the world’s biggest broiler chicken producer: the U.S. chicken industry,” said Rachel Dreskin, CIFW food business manager. “This is the first major, specific, time-bound commitment to address the issue in the United States.”