- Whole Foods Market will phase out live-shackle slaughter from its chicken suppliers at all U.S. locations by 2026, The Humane League announced in a press release on Wednesday.
- The Better Chicken Commitment prohibits live-dumping and live-shackling, broiler cages and pre-stun handling by 2024 in favor of a multi-step, controlled atmosphere processing system, which includes guaranteed, irreversible loss of consciousness.
- Whole Foods' decision makes it the first major U.S. national retailer to follow all standards of the Better Chicken Commitment.
Though Whole Foods Market will be the first among national grocery chains to adopt these ethics standards, the Better Chicken Commitment’s pledges already include companies ranging from meal kit service Blue Apron to QSRs Chipotle and Burger King. Small and local grocers have also joined, including Seattle-based PCC Community Markets. According to The Humane Society, the Amazon-owned grocer is the 190th major U.S. food company to agree to the standards.
Whole Foods Market’s strategy has always been to market itself as a "natural, organic" grocer with sustainable sourcing. But as more mainstream and discount grocers enter the natural and specialty space, shoppers may be less willing to pay a premium for Whole Foods products. In such a competitive market, products sourced from pasture-based, ethical production which goes beyond the industry standard comes with a steep price tag. However, the grocer's adoption of the standards currently singles itself out as an ethical protein supplier, aligning itself with growing consumer sentiment to buy more sustainable products. Nielsen also found that more than two-thirds of shoppers are willing to pay extra for items that meet their environmental concerns.
The Humane League noted in the press release that Aldi is also in talks to potentially adopt the standards, which has two versions. Both versions require that chickens be processed in a multi-step controlled-atmosphere system, which does not involve live-shackling, a practice which carries the risk of stock boiled to death while conscious. One version of the commitment says that by 2024, chickens must be certified by the Global Animal Partnership (GAP). A second version of the commitment says that by 2024, stock density not exceed 6 pounds per square foot, that birds’ environments meet GAP standards on litter, lighting and enrichment and that by 2026, companies adopt breeds with higher welfare outcomes.