ETHICS: Whole Foods Market

Whole Foods Market continues to be a leader in responding to consumer desires for more transparency in the way food is sourced and marketed. The result? Ethics touch almost every product in every category in a Whole Foods store. Among the more innovative ideas coming out this year is the chain's updated humane meat-rating system that awards processors points based on various criteria related to animal

Whole Foods Market continues to be a leader in responding to consumer desires for more transparency in the way food is sourced and marketed. The result? Ethics touch almost every product in every category in a Whole Foods store.

Among the more innovative ideas coming out this year is the chain's updated humane meat-rating system that awards processors points based on various criteria related to animal welfare. The system ranges from 1 to 5 stars, with 5 reflecting the highest welfare standards.

“All of our meat will be in the program eventually because if they want to sell at Whole Foods, they have to be rated,” the retailer's Chief Executive Officer John Mackey told blogger and author Sam Fromartz recently in an online interview. “Customers are going to prefer the better ratings, so we're going to see those getting 1's and 2's try to get 3's and 4's.”

Like other programs, Whole Foods will rely on third-party certification rather than in-house standards for the humane meat program. In his interview with Fromartz, Mackey noted that employing an outside monitor has more credibility with shoppers.

“Organic is third party, fair trade is third party and we think that will have more credibility with our customer base,” he said.

Whole Foods remains busy with the post-acquisition integration of Wild Oats and decompressing after the federal government's investigation of Mackey's postings in online financial chat rooms. But nothing has interfered with the company's plans to open up the workings of the food industry to customer scrutiny.