Whole Foods launches animal welfare rating program

AUSTIN, Texas — Whole Foods Market Inc. has launched an animal welfare rating system to help the grocer's shoppers find out a bit more about where their meat is coming from.

The system, designed by the nonprofit Global Animal Partnership, provides information and a ranking for beef, pork and chicken based on how farm animals are raised.

Under the system, independent, third-party certifiers audit farms and rate animal welfare practices and conditions using a tiered system. The ratings range from a "1" ranking (which would include no crates, cages or crowding) up to a "5-plus" ranking (the most animal centered, where animals spend their entire lives on one farm).

Whole Foods said more than 1,200 farms and ranches that provide its stores with products have received certification. Shoppers will see color-coded signs and stickers throughout Whole Foods Market meat departments that identify the ratings.

Whole Foods already requires that animals sold in its stores be raised on a vegetarian diet without being administered antibiotics or added growth hormones.

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