Animal Welfare, Down on the Whole Foods Farm

by Mary Haight on February 14, 2011

I saw this new tiered animal welfare ratings system for meat products  in Whole Foods the other day, and then caught the link to a video similar to the one below over at Brent Toellner’s KC Dog Blog late last night. While it’s not about dogs, it is about a mindset — doing what is expedient. The mindset that doesn’t object to factory farms is the same that does not object to commercial puppy mills producing generations of dogs and cats in cruel conditions.  I had just had a short conversation about feed lot factory farms in the interview I had with Kyla Duffy the other day, and this was also a focus in a seminar I attended led by Temple Grandin, so I wanted to offer it here.

Michael Pollan, best selling author and Professor of Journalism, UC Berkeley, says our industrial food system is unsustainable from many perspectives, animal welfare among them. He has commented that Whole Foods has wonderful stories about food, food literature if you will, elevating every item from the commonplace to something that sings of eco-politics, environmental sustainability, and respect for workers’ and animals’ needs, noting people will pay more for such stories.  There are, Pollan says, many mistakes being made in organic farming–not the least of which is that organics are forming their own factory farms of monocultures to meet demands of a fast growing industry.

Whole Foods new tiered ratings systems may be a good working model that answers some of these criticisms.  Take a look and let me know what you think:

Enhanced by Zemanta
8 comments
Edie
Edie

I think it's excellent -- and don't want to rain on this parade, but I was told (by the first person who explained dog food labeling to me) that the pet food being sold under the Whole Foods label was unhealthy, to say the least -- to the point that this person wouldn't speak there lest she be associated with the products. That makes me think (cynically) great PR campaign that doesn't carry through to their own pet products. However, this was a few years ago so I will try to verify this.

Kristine
Kristine

It's a step, for sure. If stores like Whole Foods are thinking a lot more about these things, I hope the trend spreads. Right now it is pretty easy to forget or ignore, but I think if I was faced with the truth every day at the market, I may make some better decisions about what I consume.

Amy@GoPetFriendly
Amy@GoPetFriendly

This is great! Understanding where our food comes from and how it's raised and processed is so important. Without that understanding there will never be change. For a long time our society has focused on lowering the cost of the food we eat and in the process we've completely ignored everything but the price - including the deterioration of our health. This will definitely help raise awareness, and that's the first step.

Ashley Taylor
Ashley Taylor

I like this program (first heard about it sometime ago in an animal welfare course from University of Guelph). I am pleased that it's tiered, as opposed to a strict humane or not designation. This allows the producer to maintain some freedom while still striving towards a better product and being cost effective for them. It also gives the consumer some freedom for where they are willing to spend their dollars. I'm surprised that physical alterations don't show up until Step 5, though (debeaking and tail docking of pigs and lambs, for a few examples...). I also find it interesting that transport is prohibited at this step. I'm aware that transport is one of the most stressful portions of the animals' life, but wonder how regulated self-slaughter is and how cost effective mobile-slaughter would be. Again, I am happy that this program is being roller out...and would like to see if in other supermarkets as well!

MaryHaight
MaryHaight

Yes, I had some things that came up a couple of years ago on my mind too, like that house brand frozen veggie scam...they were called "Organic California mix" or something like that and turns out they were made in China. In very small print on the back of package. That was back in 08. To my way of thinking, there is no way any food from China can be organic. Their pollution problems are breath-taking, literally, and their soil is just as polluted. So you do have to read every label, even in whole foods. But they have changed the game where no one before could, and that's excellent. As in many other aspects of our lives, it's up to us to keep them honest. Thanks for chiming in, Edie!

MaryHaight
MaryHaight

I could not agree more, Kristine! Thanks for stopping by!

MaryHaight
MaryHaight

I think these kinds of programs keep the processes of animal husbandry in our faces, where they need to be. As you say, there will be no change without the constant reminder. Thanks for adding your voice here:)

MaryHaight
MaryHaight

Hi Ashley. I also thought the tiered idea was great, and had the same reaction to physical alterations left to step 5. There's so much work to be done in this area, I am glad that there are some good ideas being implemented! Some good news to share on a Monday - hey, think I'll tweet that:) Thanks for stopping by.

Previous post:

Next post: