After working closely with Compassion in World Farming, Whole Foods Market has made the precedent setting move of becoming the first major retailer to commit to all tenets of the Better Chicken Commitment.
In 2016, in conjunction with Global Animal Partnership, Whole Foods Market became the first retailer to commit to meaningfully reduce the suffering of chickens raised for meat by switching to healthier breeds and providing birds with natural light, more space, and enrichment to encourage natural behaviors. Since that groundbreaking pledge, over 180 food companies have stepped up for chickens by signing up to the Better Chicken Commitment.
On top of breed change, more space, enrichment, and third-party animal welfare auditing, the Better Chicken Commitment requires Controlled Atmosphere Stunning (CAS), a more humane slaughter method. Today, we are pleased to see Whole Foods Market again leading the charge among retailers to meet consumer demand for all aspects of higher welfare chicken by requiring CAS.
“At Whole Foods Market, we’ve long maintained rigorous Quality Standards across our Meat Department, and take the issue of broiler chicken welfare seriously,” said A.C. Gallo, President and Chief Merchandising Officer of Whole Foods Market. “We appreciate the important work of Compassion in World Farming and were grateful for their assistance in developing our statement on broiler chicken welfare as part of our ongoing efforts to raise the bar on farm animal welfare.”
Consumers are increasingly concerned with the treatment of chickens raised for meat, which make up an astonishing 95% of all farmed animals. For decades, these birds have been bred for white breast meat, and their unnaturally large bodies can suffer heart attacks, leg deformities, and other painful health problems. After growing up in a tightly-packed chicken house, the birds are sent to a slaughter facility where they are hung upside down and passed through an electric water bath to stun them before processing.
This outdated slaughter method can result in unnecessary animal suffering, as birds can miss the stunning bath meant to render them unconscious and incapable of perceiving pain. By contrast, CAS facilities are more humane because they ensure irreversible stunning before processing.
Currently, 80% of Whole Foods Market’s main-branded chicken suppliers have transitioned to CAS systems. As the company works towards its goal of reaching 100% by 2026, customers can expect an update on annual progress.
Today’s announcement does not apply to small farms or Kosher suppliers. Unlike larger poultry producers, small farms do not have the financial capacity to install expensive CAS facilities. These small farms are still required to meet Whole Foods Market’s animal welfare standards and, importantly, are prohibited from the using the cruel practice of live dumping.
Compassion in World Farming applauds Whole Foods Market’s dedication to continuously improve its animal welfare commitments, and we look forward to future opportunities for collaboration.