Whole Foods Market Inc. (NASDAQ: WFM) is changing the chicken game with its most recent move to replace its fast-growing chicken breeds with slower-growing breeds. Although this change is not expected to be completed until 2024, Whole Foods is the first major food company to make this change.
The company is working with the Global Animal Partnership (GAP) in this collaboration. In a separate release, GAP announced its intention over the next eight years to replace 100% of fast-growing chicken breeds with slower-growing breeds for all levels of its 5-Step Rating Program.
Over 600 chicken farms currently use the GAP standard, affecting the lives of 277 million chickens annually and making it the most significant higher welfare farm animal standard in the country.
Anne Malleau, executive director for GAP, commented:
At GAP, our goal is to improve the welfare of farm animals. By addressing fast growth, we will be getting to the root of the welfare problem facing chickens today. Implementing this transition will require significant work, but we are confident we can get there.
Currently, fast-growing chicken breeds represent 98% of all commercially available chicken meat in North America. Modern chickens have been genetically selected for their fast, efficient growth and higher yield of breast meat. However, this has had detrimental impacts on the welfare of broiler chickens, including immune and musculoskeletal problems, resulting in limitations to the bird’s ability to express natural behaviors like perching, flying and even walking.
Theo Weening, global meat buyer for Whole Foods Market, commented:
Whole Foods Market’s Quality Standards for meat have been guiding us in providing high quality meat to our customers for years. Since 2011, we have used Global Animal Partnership’s 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating to provide our customers with additional standards around animal welfare for the meat they buy which affects freshness, quality, and flavor.
Shares of Whole Foods were trading up 1.7% at $33.48 on Friday, with a consensus analyst price target of $29.79 and a 52-week trading range of $28.07 to $54.33.