AUSTIN, Texas (October 21, 2003) Whole Foods Market, Inc. (Nasdaq: WFMI), the world's largest natural and organic foods supermarket, announced it will be the first major grocery chain to create farm animal treatment standards to go above and beyond the company's current strict animal welfare standards already required for meat and poultry sold in its stores.

The enhanced standards will be developed jointly with Whole Foods Market, producers, animal welfare groups and experts, and an independent third-party food safety auditor. Products meeting the utmost standard will be labeled as 'animal compassionate.' Throughout the company's 23-year history, Whole Foods Market has championed innovative production standards to improve the quality and the safety of meat and poultry, while also supporting the comfort, physical safety, and health of the animals. The “animal compassionate” standards are the next phase of the company's existing standards.

“With 145 stores, Whole Foods Market has the scale and scope to really make a difference in raising the bar when it comes to animal welfare on farms and in animal production systems,” said John Mackey, Whole Foods Market CEO, chairman, and co-founder.

Animal welfare requirements already mandatory for any meat and poultry sold at Whole Foods Market include:

  • No antibiotics or added growth hormones ever.
  • Annual affidavit from each producer outlining the raising and handling practices, feed, facility design, environmental conditions, employee training, medical practices, and animal welfare at the farm, in transportation, and throughout processing.
  • Annual inspection of each producer's operation by Whole Foods Market.
  • Successful completion of an independent third-party food safety audit of each operation's processing plant and a humane slaughter audit according to a rating system developed by world-renown animal welfare and facility design expert, Dr. Temple Grandin.

The next phase of Whole Foods Market's animal welfare standards further underscores the company's belief that the needs of an animal should be the first criteria in the development of standards. The primary focus will be providing environments and conditions for each species that support the animal's natural physical needs, behavior, and well-being.

Work on the new “animal compassionate” standards will start with the development of enhanced animal welfare standards for ducks with the goal of completion and implementation by the end of 2004. Development of standards for each of the other species will follow.