As you may have seen the other day, I’ve recently fallen in love with Earth Fare. Not only do they have everything I need but the prices seem to be much better than at Whole Foods, who- by the way- have recently found themselves in a bit of a pickle (I wonder if it’s organic?). Again.
Apparently, Whole Foods is in the middle of a “four-month investigation from the animal rights group Direct Action Everywhere that challenges Whole Food’s core selling point of healthy and humane food. The group accused Pitman Family Farms, the maker of Mary’s Free Range Chicken and a supplier to Whole Foods in six Western states, of breaking its promises of free-range environments for its birds.” 1 (This is Direct Action Everywhere’s SECOND investigation of a Whole Foods supplier who claims “free-range.” Currently, their case against Diestel Turkey Ranch is still pending.)
You DEFINITELY want to watch the video below.
There are a lot of facts to sort through but thanks to Intercept, we can break them down like this:2
- Direct Action Everywhere visited a dozen Pitman farms and never once saw a chicken roaming outside. The group even reported twenty-four-hour surveillance, on six separate locations, that revealed no outdoor birds. Video showed scattered fighting and smaller birds with injuries, as well as evidence of “debeaking.” The investigation took place from January to May at roughly a dozen Pitman farm locations in California’s San Joaquin Valley.
- Pitman Family Farms website says they are certified by the Global Animal Partnership program. (GAP rates farms with a “five-step” scale. Most of Pitman’s facilities carry a three rating which means birds are supposed to have space to move around; an outdoor free-range area with shade and at least 25 percent vegetative cover; farmers don’t use growth hormones or antibiotics in feed, and birds do not undergo physical alterations like debeaking.)
- In response to what Global Animal Partnership found, Pitman Farms’ said, “At Pitman Farms, we raise chickens for many different customers. The barn in question houses chickens that are not part of the slow growth or free-range programs.” (They also said the farm from the video is not GAP certified- although they have stated they are GAP certified and their website doesn’t’ describe ANY products aside from free-range chicken, nor does it say they use non-GAP farms or sell eggs. Also, the Mary’s branded packages claiming ‘free-range’ and sold at Whole Foods were grown on farms certified and audited by the Global Animal Partnership.)
- Hours after Direct Action Everywhere released their report, Whole Foods’ Twitter feed responded to complaints with the exact same language: “We don’t source chicken from the facility in this video; we only source chicken from Pitman farms that are GAP certified for animal welfare.”
Basically, it’s just a giant game of pass the buck in an industry where there isn’t a federally recognized definition of “free-range” or “pasture-raised.” In fact, the Food Safety Inspection Service allows either of those terms to be put on the poultry you buy for your family if agribusinesses “provide a brief description of the birds’ housing conditions.” Yes, the claims are supposed to be evaluated but given the fact that there’s almost no on-site confirmation AND the USDA often relies on third-party verifications like GAP, well, you get the point.
Big everything is in bed with the US government. And it’s never going to stop. We cannot trust the government to police itself- at least not when there is crappy food to sell to us so we get sick and need their drugs!
No one is coming to help us. We have to help ourselves. Do you trust Whole Foods enough to shop there anymore?