Whole Foods...... are they what they say they are?

David Dayen

This article has been copied from:


September 15 2017, 6:00 a.m.

WHEN AMAZON PURCHASED Whole Foods last month, it didn’t just get the retail locations. It picked up Whole Foods’s baggage as well. Among the bigger issues inherited by Amazon appears to be a four-month investigation from the animal rights group Direct Action Everywhere that challenges Whole Foods’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.

Direct Action Everywhere, whose mission is to create animal welfare-friendly cities and outlaw factory farming practices, visited a dozen Pitman farms and never once saw a chicken roaming outside. The group reported that it found no indications of outdoor living, such as feathers or fecal matter. Twenty-four hour surveillance cameras attached to six separate locations revealed no outdoor birds either, the activists said. Instead, chickens were packed shoulder-to-shoulder inside dusty sheds with degraded air quality, forced to challenge one another for access to food and water.

Video of Direct Action Everywhere’s findings showed scattered fighting among the chickens and smaller birds with injuries, including one with its eye pecked out. They also alleged evidence of “debeaking,” a procedure involving severing the tip of a chicken’s beak with a laser to prevent pecking.


Video: Direct Action Everywhere

“We saw things that even shocked us,” Wayne Hsiung, co-founder of the group, told The Intercept in an interview. Hsiung characterized the overcrowding as the worst he’s ever seen at a poultry farm, with investigators were nearly unable to walk through the flocks without stepping on birds.

The investigation took place from January to May at roughly a dozen Pitman farm locations in California’s San Joaquin Valley. Hsiung alleged no meaningful difference between the farms and reported no evidence of free-range activity. “We couldn’t find a single bird outside,” he said.

“We saw things that even shocked us,” said Wayne Hsiung. “We couldn’t find a single bird outside.”

PITMAN FAMILY FARMSclaims to be certified by the Global Animal Partnership program, a nonprofit animal welfare organization. Whole Foods funded GAP, and two of its staffers are Whole Foods employees.

GAP rates farms with a “five step” scale. Most of Pitman’s facilities — including the ones visited by Direct Action Everywhere — carry a three rating, meaning that birds 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. Videos on the Pitman website showcase its one “step 5” farm, according to the GAP ratings, where birds live permanently on pasture. Direct Action Everywhere claims the conditions at the farms it visited were markedly different.

While activists confirmed that Pitman used “slow-growing” Rhode Island Red chickens, which aren’t bred to grow very big quickly and have fewer health problems, the conditions alleged at the farm actually prolong the birds’ suffering, according to Hsiung. “Cage-free, slow-growing, it’s not better or worse, just different,” he said. “These animals have to endure a longer life in miserable conditions.”

Because the farms are so massive, with tens of thousands of animals sometimes supervised by a single employee, activists found it easy to access the sheds. “You just walk in. They even have unlocked doors,” said Hsiung.

Direct Action Everywhere claimed that it’s now impossible to secure undercover employment at these sites, previously a common technique employed by animal rights activists. When the activists get reports of mistreatment, they feel a moral and legal necessity to step in, citing law journal reviews on the subject. “When we know a company is lying, we open up the doors,” he said.

Pitman Family Farms sells poultry through high-end markets, such as Whole Foods in California, Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Nevada, and Hawaii, and employs a workforce of around 500 employees at over 80 different sites. Product quality and animal welfare is a hallmark of the Mary’s Free Range Chicken brand.

Pitman Farms’s David Rubenstein told The Intercept late Thursday night, “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.” He added that “the farm shown in the video is not GAP certified.” The chickens in the video were being housed to “help protect them from outside disease and will be soon transferred to another barn, where eggs will be harvested,” Rubenstein said.

Pitman Farms’s website does not describe any products aside from free-range chicken, nor does it say they use non-GAP farms or sell eggs. The brand is built around animal welfare; in promotional videos, members of the Pitman family speak of how animal welfare is implemented across their farming enterprise. “All of the chickens we raise, we call them ‘free-range,'” said Rick Pitman in one video. Nowhere in Pitman Farms’s promotional material is any mention made of farms that don’t comply with humane standards. Direct Action Everywhere claims that they visited a dozen Pitman farms with no appreciable difference in the conditions. Rubenstein, however, insisted, “Without a doubt, 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.”

“Time and time again, they make the same robotic denial.”

WITHIN HOURS OF Direct Action Everywhere releasing their report, Whole Foods’s Twitter feed responded to complaints with theexact 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.” A Whole Foods spokesperson made the same assertion to The Intercept: The chickens in the video are not from a GAP-certified facility, nor are they processed where Whole Foods’s GAP-rated chickens are handled.

The Pitman website indicates that all their farms are GAP-rated, so it’s unclear how there could be an unrated farm from which Whole Foods doesn’t acquire chickens. Hsiung expressed skepticism at Whole Foods’s response to the controversy. “We have reached out to Whole Foods to show them investigations,” he said. “Time and time again, they make the same robotic denial.” Hsiung also alleged that Whole Foods tweeted their denials before they could reasonably have checked in with Pitman to investigate.

Consumers have shown growing interest in more humanely raised food, including free-range chickens. But there is no recognized federal definition of “free-range” or “pasture-raised” goods in food labeling. The Food Safety Inspection Service allows these terms to be placed on poultry if agribusinesses “provide a brief description of the birds’ housing conditions.” While the claims are supposed to be evaluated, there is virtually no on-site confirmation. The U.S. Department of Agriculture often relies on third-party verifications like GAP, including for Mary’s Free Range Chicken.

“The industry is in bed with the government,” said Hsiung. “I’m a former securities lawyer. It’s similar to the financial industry. The USDA’s mission statement is to promote agriculture. You can’t promote the industry and guard against the industry’s abuses. It’s like trying to be a lawyer for both sides of a litigation.”

This is Direct Action Everywhere’s second investigation alleging a Whole Foods supplier claiming inaccurate “free-range” standards. Revelationsagainst Diestel Turkey Ranch in 2015 led to a California lawsuit for false advertising. The case is still pending.

Amazon has faced negative headlines for problems with working conditions at its warehouses. By buying a grocery, they face a whole new set of risks from suppliers, which could damage its reputation as a high-end provider.

Knowledge is key in making food decisions for your family

Now you can not know what you are not being informed about.  It is becoming more and more important to know who is supplying your family food. To have a relationship and know the supply chain and the transparency in delivering food the food to your table is the only way to keep your food safe and healthy.





Watchdog group sues USDA for names of poultry companies

Food & Water Watch says new poultry inspection system gives companies too much autonomy

BY NEWS DESK | JUNE 13, 2017

Food & Water Watch has filed suit against the USDA because the agency will not release the names of companies that have applied to switch to a voluntary program that allows for non-government poultry inspections.

A USDA poultry inspector checks carcasses as the production line moves. Photo courtesy of USDA

In its complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington D.C., the watchdog group refers to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s “New Poultry Inspection System” (NPIS) as a privatization deal.

Food & Water Watch contends the system results in government inspectors “evaluating up to three birds per second in broiler chicken plants, and one turkey per second in turkey slaughter facilities.”

The activist group was last in federal court in 2015 over the USDA’s New Poultry Inspection System (NPIS) when their challenge was tossed by Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.    She found the group and two of its members, who she said were advancing a”myopic view” over “sheer speculation that bad things might happen,” were without standing.

As of Monday, the USDA had not filed a response to the latest federal court complaint.

Since October 2014 the nonprofit group has been asking USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to release the names of companies that applied to participate in the new inspection procedure.

“Consumers deserve to know if the meat they’re serving their families is mostly inspected by the companies themselves. If these facilities are really more effective at ensuring that food doesn’t contain deadly contaminants, then what is USDA and FSIS hiding,” asked Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, in a news release about the federal court action.

USDA poultry inspectors use a variety of tests to gauge the effectiveness of food safety measures. Photo courtesy of FDA

“If USDA wants to claim that NPIS is on track to prevent thousands of cases of foodborne illness a year, as it estimated in 2014, it should easily be able provide such an evaluation. But the agency won’t even tell us which plants plan to join the program.”

The government won’t provide the names of the companies, which Food & Water Watch has requested through numerous Freedom of Information Act requests, because of protections built into federal law regarding “confidential corporate information.”

“(The requested) records consist solely of confidential future business plans that were submitted by the establishments,” USDA said in a response to Food & Water Watch.

The advocacy organization says in its legal complaint that it doesn’t want secret plans, rather, “only sought the identities of those companies that had begun operating or had requested permission to operate under the new system.”

In addition to expecting to annually prevent 5,000 foodborne illnesses from Salmonella and Campylobacter under the new inspection program, USDA officials have said the NPIS allows poultry companies to sort their own products for defects before printing the to FSIS for inspection.

USDA has said with the new system FSIS inspectors will be able to more frequently remove birds from the evisceration line for close examinations, take samples for testing, check plant sanitation, verify compliance with food safety plans and observe live birds for signs of disease or mishandling.

With the new inspection program rules, poultry companies must meet new requirements to prevent Salmonella and Campylobacter contamination, rather than addressing contamination after it occurs.

Also, all poultry facilities must perform their own microbiological testing at two points in their production process to show the two pathogens are being controlled. Those in-house tests are in addition to testing by FSIS.

USDA allows boiling chickens alive even against its own rules.

8.8 billion chickens are harvested each year in the US.

Over 1 million, by admission of the USDA miss the neck slicing knives on the assembly line and are boiled alive.

This violates the USDA's own laws for humane harvesting but they say nothing.

This is terrible and inhumane.

Premierfoodsgroup hand harvests our chickens. We do so in a humane manner. We only harvest 15 chickens per hour and we do it by hand so we know it is safe, humane and inspected by a person.



Raise chicken in the US, ship to China for processing, Ship back here to our grocery stores

How can it be less expensive to send chicken half way across the globe, have them processed and then shipped half way around the world back to our grocery stores?                                                                                               The only way is to cut corners.  Where do they cut corners? I do not know, nor do I want to find out !!!!!!!!



USDA to Allow Chickens From U.S. to Be Shipped to China for Processing and Back to U.S. for Consumption

By Erin Elizabeth -

July 13, 2015

China Processed Chicken

Scores of Americans are in an uproar since Food Safety News revealed the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will soon allow U.S. chickens to be sent to China for processing before being shipped back to the states for human consumption.This arrangement is especially disturbing given China’s subpar food safety record and the fact that there are no plans to station on-site USDA inspectors at Chinese plants.

Also, American consumers won’t know which brands of chicken are processed in China because there’s no requirement to label it as such.

It’s Already Done With Your Seafood

To ease concerns, lobbyists and chicken industry proponents argue no U.S. company will ever ship chicken to China for processing because it wouldn’t work economically.

“Economically, it doesn’t make much sense,” said Tom Super, spokesman for the National Chicken Council, in a recent interview with the Houston Chronicle. “Think about it: A Chinese company would have to purchase frozen chicken in the U.S., pay to ship it 7,000 miles, unload it, transport it to a processing plant, unpack it, cut it up, process/cook it, freeze it, repack it, transport it back to a port, then ship it another 7,000 miles. I don’t know how anyone could make a profit doing that.”

Yet, a similar process is already being used for U.S. seafood.

According to the Seattle Times, domestically caught Pacific salmon and Dungeness crab are being processed in China and shipped back to the U.S. because of significant cost savings.

“There are 36 pin bones in a salmon and the best way to remove them is by hand,” said Charles Bundrant, founder of Trident, which ships about 30 million pounds of its 1.2 billion-pound annual harvest to China for processing. “Something that would cost us $1 per pound labor here, they get it done for 20 cents in China.”

Low Pay, Poor Safety Record

Bureau of Labor Statistics data estimates that American poultry processors are paid roughly $11 per hour on average. In China, reports have circulated that the country’s chicken workers can earn significantly less—$1 to 2 per hour—which casts doubt on Super’s economic feasibility assessment.

China’s food safety system, which is said to be decades behind America’s, is highly questionable given some of the more recent food safety scandals that have surfaced in the country:

Food Safety News aims to spread awareness of the pending USDA agreement and stop Chinese-processed chicken from ever reaching supermarkets or school lunchrooms.