Think you can buy a humanely raised turkey at Whole Foods? Think again. With Thanksgiving menus in mind, consumers looking for the Global Animal Partnership (GAP) label in Whole Foods Market may be misled about the animal welfare standards within the grocers’ marquee certification program. A new survey by Farm Forward shows the vast majority (88%) of respondents were incorrect about or didn’t know whether GAP means that animals are raised on pasture (of the 88%, 58% were wrong, and 30% responded that they didn’t know). Most chickens and turkeys raised under GAP are not required to have outdoor access.
“Whole Foods’ GAP label creates more confusion than clarity,” said Ben Goldsmith, chief strategist for Farm Forward. “GAP is the largest third-party animal welfare certification in the US, yet it deceives shoppers into paying more for meat, poultry, and eggs that appear more humane and sustainable, when, in reality, many are still factory farmed.”
A Desire for Consistent Outdoor Access
Previous survey work has demonstrated at least 79% of Americans expect humane labels to guarantee broad welfare improvements, including outdoor access. Virtually all respondents (91%) in Farm Forward’s new survey were incorrect about or didn’t know whether GAP labels mean that animals are given consistent access to the outdoors (of those 91%, 62% were wrong, and 29% didn’t know). Thirty-nine percent of respondents believed that the GAP certification mark meant that animals were given consistent access to the outdoors. In comparison, 60% of respondents said that this should be the case. Nearly half (45%) of US shoppers expect welfare labels to guarantee that animals are raised continuously on pasture. Unfortunately, only the most stringent labels achieve this standard, and those labels are often difficult to find, let alone distinguish.
GAP Allows Genetic Modification
American shoppers do not understand that GAP certification allows genetic modification for extremely fast-growing birds, who often suffer heart and lung ailments and struggle to walk by the time they reach slaughter age. Nearly 40% of survey respondents replied incorrectly that the generic GAP certification means that animals were not genetically modified to grow unnaturally quickly, with 55% believing that it should be a requirement.
Humanewashing benefits the lowest welfare meat producers at the expense of the highest welfare meat producers. Moreover, this “halo effect” helps not only Whole Foods’ own worst meat producers, but also brands at other retailers that use certifications with even lower standards. This would be like a coal company with LEED-certified headquarters; the halo of the company’s eco-friendly headquarters creates a false sense that all of the company's activities are eco-friendly, which in turn casts the entire coal industry in a more positive light. Humanewashing makes it impossible for consumers to make good, fully-informed choices when it comes to purchasing high welfare animal products, even at trusted retailers like Whole Foods, and impossible for highest-welfare farmers to distinguish their products on store shelves.
Be Prepared to Pay
Consuming higher welfare turkey will cost you, which may be especially difficult for American shoppers to stomach this year because of higher food prices across the board due to supply chain issues. The average price of a Step 1 turkey from a modified factory farm at Whole Foods Market is $1.49 per pound, and a Step 5 turkey (which actually meets most consumers’ expectations about welfare) could cost five times as much per pound. The National Turkey Federation reports that 88% of Americans – nearly 293 million – say they will be eating Thanksgiving turkey this year. That equates to more than 46 million turkeys being eaten at Thanksgiving and an additional 22 million consumed at Christmas.
Test Your Humane IQ
To help consumers test their knowledge about animal welfare certifications, Farm Forward has created a short Humane IQ quiz.
All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1219 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 3rd - 7th September 2021. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all US adults (aged 18+).
About Farm Forward
Farm Forward works to improve the lives of more than 400 million farmed animals annually. Since 2007, its mission has been to end factory farming by changing farming, changing policy, and changing the stories told about animal agriculture.