Friday, February 25, 2011

Orange Alert: Whole Foods Animal Welfare Rating

Whole Foods has started to label all the meat they sell with a number from 1-5 a project they have started with the Global Animal Partnership to give consumers more information about how the animals that they are about to eat as meat were raised.  This is a great step towards informing the consumer about how the animals that we eat are raised.  On there website Whole Foods is doing a series of three article discussing in detail the difference in the 5 steps, this week it is Pigs last week it was Chickens and next week it will be Cows.

Here's an excerpt from the piece on chickens:

One of the big differences at Step 3 is that birds have access to the outdoors during the day. There must be shade and provisions so the birds can hide from hawks and other aerial predators, and isolate themselves, so they feel comfortable being outdoors and get to enjoy roaming around outside the barn. 

So type 3 is the first level where the chickens are able to freely roam in an outside environment.  This is important, at least to me, because chickens that are allowed to forage in the grass for food and have a more diverse and one could argue, more traditional diet, not one totally dependent on feed.  Given my choice I would prefer to buy a chicken that was level 3 or higher.  Ideally I would want to buy a chicken raised on a traditional old fashioned farm where the birds wandered about and spent there entire life on the farm.Obviously a chicken who lived such a quality life would be expensive, but given how rarely I eat it I feel it would be worth the splurge.   The rub, as they say, is that at the Whole Foods on the Bowery, where I mostly shop (sometimes I go to Union Square) the highest level they sold was 2.   I understand that in this instance a 2 is from a factory farm that has been well vetted, where the birds have a hay stack to interact with, have more room to roam then a traditional factory farm and aren't given any of their relatives to eat.   All good things, my only frustration is that I know what the possibilities are I want a larger selection.  Don't tell me about the paradise of a 5 + and then not offer it to me to buy....I guess this is just a tease, something to keep going back for in hopes to be surprised one day at the meat counter?

The best tasting chicken I ever bought at Whole Foods was from Wise Organics Pastures, a kosher organic farm in the Appalachian foothills of rural Pennsylvania.  Whole Foods has since stopped carrying them, but on occasion we order from Wise directly. I wonder what there number would be?

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