I got a response from Whole Foods Market today about my question on their slaughtering practices. Here is the reply I got.
Thank you for contacting us at Whole Foods Market.
Although some poultry suppliers have a slaughter plant on their
property, most contract with an outside business whose focus is entirely
on the slaughter process. In order to sell meat commercially, a plant
must be certified by the state or the USDA which is a complicated
process. Sanitation, animal welfare and transportation would be another
difficulty with slaughter at farm level, and efficient transportation
with no temperature gain is essential to safe meat reaching our stores.
Most of our producers use slaughter plants that are smaller than the
large commodity houses. They are smaller producers and so use plants
that reflect their size.
One of our requirements is that every slaughter plant used by our
suppliers is audited annually for food safety and animal welfare. We
have very stringent requirements for the way the animal is handled and
for how the meat is handled as well. After slaughter the meat hangs in
a cooler until it is chilled, then is cut into large sections and/or
cuts, packaged and shipped directly to our warehouses where it is moved
into a cooler prior to being shipped to the stores.
We have a third party auditor that has developed an audit specifically
to meet our requirements. Whole Foods Market representatives accompany
the auditor on these audits frequently.
We are confident that the meat producers we work with are exceptional in
their attention to the interest of the animals under their care, up to
and at the point of slaughter.
Under the National Organic Standards Act, organic meat must be processed
in a plant that has been certified to handle organic animals by a
company licensed by the USDA to certify compliance with the NOSA.
Organic meat must be handled completely separately from meat that is not
certified organic. If the plant processes both organic and non-organic
animals, the organic are slaughtered before the others each day. The
National Organic Standards Act is under the oversight of the USDA and
there are USDA inspectors on site at every plant we work with to ensure
the sanitation of the plant overall and the integrity of any organic
Free range and organic are two very different classifications. The 'free
range' classification does not have requirements that are as stringent
as those with an 'organic' classification in either the living or
slaughter conditions of the animal. Both must be distinguished in the
slaughter plant to maintain identity and classification.
Thank you for asking. If you have further questions, please feel free