Animal Welfare Watchdogs Give Top Marks to Whole Foods Market, Sprouts

A report released in September by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) grades the 20 largest grocery retail outfits in the country on their responsibility to ensure farm animal welfare. Only two grocers received the highest “A” rating – Sprouts Farmers Market and Whole Foods Market. The September report is the ASPCA’s first animal welfare study of its kind. It tracks pledges and progress in three main categories of assessment: cage-free eggs, gestation crate-free pork, and compliance with the “Better Chicken Commitment,” a collection of benchmarks that targets the improvement of the health and well-being of billions of chickens being raised for meat. Whole Foods Market received an “A+” grade for complete program strategies for all three animal welfare issues, and 100% cage-free, and 100% gestation crate-free enactment. Not far behind, Sprouts Farmers Market earned an “A” grade, for two total programs for egg-laying hens and pregnant pigs and a partial policy for broiler chickens. Sprouts has attained 100% compliance for cage-free eggs and is declaring improvement on its other policies. Other grocery retailers that received recognition for complete cage-free policies: Albertsons, Food Lion, Key Food, Publix, Safeway, Sam’s Club, Stop & Shop, Target, Walmart, and Walmart Neighborhood Market.

According to the ASPCA report, 69% of shoppers are looking for transparency about grocers’ advancement toward stocking more humane items. In addition, the majority of consumers are willing to shop at a different retailer if they learn that their normal grocer does not offer humane alternatives to factory-farmed food items. Of the 20 grocery retailers assessed, 75% have at least acknowledged the concern of using battery cages to house hens. Five of the retailers that have not adopted strategies to tackle these animal welfare concerns are Grocery Outlet, Piggly Wiggly, Save A Lot, Trader Joe’s, and Winn-Dixie. All five earned an F grade on corporate animal welfare policies in the report.

“The ASPCA is working with some of the largest supermarket chains to help them swiftly adopt and progress on strong welfare policies,” said Nancy Roulston, senior director of corporate policy and animal scientist, at ASPCA Farm Animal Welfare.

The ASPCA®, founded in 1866, was the first animal welfare society to be founded in North America and currently is the nation’s leading voice for vulnerable animals and boasts more than two million supporters across the country. As a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation, the ASPCA fights to prevent cruelty to dogs, cats, equines, and farm animals across the nation. The ASPCA offers assistance to animals in need with “on-the-ground disaster and cruelty intervention, behavioral rehabilitation, animal placement, legal and legislative advocacy, and the advancement of the sheltering and veterinary community through research, training, and resources,” according to the ASPCA website.