Whole Foods’ Not-So-Humane Meat Called Into Question By PETA

How to eat meat in a morally, ethically, and environmentally responsible way—it’s the true omnivore’s dilemma (sorry, Michael Pollan!). The way in which animals are treated prior to being on your plate is important to many people—so important, in fact, most of us are willing to shell out more for good treatment. Whole Foods knows this and has been a top supplier of ethical meat for years, loudly proclaiming their standards, ensuring their animals have the freedom to roam outside and act naturally. Pigs get to wallow and turkeys get to forage, which some argue leads to more natural and healthy animal products than what you’d find in a regular grocery store. But all that is being called into question in a new PETA video that shows how one of Whole Foods’ pork suppliers really treats their animals.

In the video (which may be disturbing to some viewers), pigs are crowded into dank, cramped quarters and left with festering, untreated wounds, including “gross rectal prolapses.” It’s a far cry from Whole Foods’ original promotional video (which has since been removed from its site) that showed happy pigs roaming a small farm. However, while the reality of Whole Foods’ meat practices might not match the idyllic dream, it should be noted this incident is hardly the worst case of the animal abuse that PETA is known for exposing. Naturally, Philip Horst-Landis, the owner of the farm under fire, has said the video was manipulated and distorted. Whole Foods has said they checked out their supplier, Sweet Stem, and found no violations of their rules. (Add this to the list of trouble Whole Foods has gotten themselves into this year, right behind that time Whole Foods Sold Asparagus-Enhanced Water By Mistake.)

What exactly the rules are for humanely raised meat is a sticky question. To become approved by the health-food chain, ranchers have to meet strict standards, outlined in their “5 Steps Plan.” Sweet Stem is currently at step two. This means that “animals live their lives with more space to move around and stretch their legs” and that “animals are provided with enrichments that encourage behavior that’s natural to them, like a bale of straw for chickens to peck at, a bowling ball for pigs to shove around, or a sturdy object for cattle to rub against.” While these requirements leave room for interpretation, the PETA video does seem to show many violations of the little specificty there is, like restricting livestock’s access to the outdoors.

In fact, a report last year found that 80 percent of meat and poultry labels that claim their products were from “humanely raised” animals didn’t actually have any information to verify their claims. But most of us expect more from Whole Paycheck—and that trust is the reason we’re willing to lighten our wallets for reliable products. (Rigged Scales? How Whole Foods Might Overcharge You.)

The good news? If PETA’s video causes enough of a ruckus, it will likely enourage the chain to look deeper into all of their suppliers, ensuring we’re all actually getting the superior meat we’re forking over the cash for.

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