World Society for the Protection of Animals' Survey Ranks Whole Foods Most Humane Grocery Store

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Survey indicates U.S. consumers want more animal-friendly foods

Photo courtesy WSPA

Everyday we have the opportunity to impact the quality of animal's lives with our food choices, and this database provides the facts people need to make ethical decisions and find humanely raised products.

The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), the world's largest alliance of animal welfare organizations, today released the results of a Humane Food Survey ranking the top 25 U.S. supermarket chains by annual sales. This is the second year WSPA conducted a survey of 200 stores in 34 states. A comparison of results from 2008 to 2009 shows an impressive 23 percent increase in humane food offerings in stores.

According to Dena Jones, U.S. programs director for WSPA, "The survey results indicate that people are becoming more sensitive to the cruel and unsustainable methods used to raise farm animals and are seeking humane alternatives when they shop, regardless of cost. Consumer demand influences what stores offer and it is encouraging to see grocers responding by increasing humane food options even in a recession."

The majority of U.S. animals raised for meat, eggs and dairy spend their lives confined in factory-style farms. Generally animals raised under humane food programs are given access to sunlight, fresh air, and freedom of movement. Levels of animal welfare can be identified by a variety of labels on food packaging, which are often misleading to consumers. WSPA rates food labels such as "free range," "USDA organic" and "cage free" in terms of the way the animals raised for food are treated and aims to educate consumers about what food labels to choose and what ones to avoid.

The 2009 survey recorded products in four categories: dairy, eggs, unprocessed meat and poultry, and processed meat and poultry (bacon, ham, hot dogs). Stores were ranked using a point system based on the quality and variety of the food products available on the shelves.

Whole Foods scored the highest by far, offering twice as many humanely labeled products per store as the two companies tied for second -- Shaw's Supermarkets and Publix Super Markets. Wal-Mart Stores, the world's largest food retailer, scored near the bottom. The lowest in the survey was Save-A-Lot Food Stores with no humanely labeled products found in its stores. For complete store rankings and survey results, click here.

In conjunction with the survey today, WSPA launched the first searchable database for humane foods at the top 25 U.S. grocery stores. To view the database, click here. Consumers can search their local store to find humane food products and see how their store compares to others. Jones explains, "Everyday we have the opportunity to impact the quality of animal's lives with our food choices, and this database provides the facts people need to make ethical decisions and find humanely raised products."

Through partnership with more than 1,000 organizations worldwide, WSPA strives to create a world where animal welfare matters and animal cruelty ends. WSPA is working with organizations throughout the world to phase out intensive farming and to promote more humane food alternatives among retailers and consumers. Visit WSPA USA's blog at

About Food Label Claims

  •     Good - These claims cover one aspect of animal care and a third party does not verify compliance with the standards: "Cage free" (eggs); "Free range" (eggs, chicken, duck, goose, turkey); "Grass fed" (dairy, beef, lamb).
  •     Better - These feature a higher level of animal welfare, but standards are either not verified by a third party or cover only a limited aspect of animal care: "Free range" (beef, bison, lamb, pork); "Pasture raised" (dairy, eggs, chicken, turkey, beef, bison, lamb, pork); "USDA organic" (dairy, eggs, chicken, turkey, beef, bison, lamb, pork).
  •     Best - These cover multiple aspects of animal care and an independent third party verifies compliance with the standards: "American Humane Certified" (dairy, eggs, chicken, turkey, beef, lamb, pork); "Animal Welfare Approved" (dairy, eggs, chicken, turkey, beef, lamb, pork); "Certified Humane" (dairy, eggs, chicken, turkey, beef, lamb, pork).

Buyer Beware

  •     "No antibiotics used"/"No hormones administered" - The government does not conduct testing to verify these claims. Hormones are prohibited in the raising of pigs and poultry, so this claim is meaningless for pork, chicken and turkey. "No antibiotics used" suggests animals were not raised on a factory farm, but by itself does not indicate high animal welfare.
  •     "Natural" - This has no relevance to animal welfare. It merely indicates that the product was minimally processed and contains no dyes or preservatives.
  •     "Naturally raised" - The USDA has established a voluntary definition for this. It indicates that the animal was raised without the use of antibiotics and hormones and had been given only vegetarian feed. It does not require freedom of movement and access to fresh air and sunlight for the animal.

Media Contact:
Rodi Rosensweig


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