In addition to working toward federal legislation to limit transport times, API worked to educate grocery retailers about the cruelty of long-distance transport by sending information packets complete with a DVD of our groundbreaking investigation and a survey on long-distance transport. The survey included questions on how far animals used in meat products sold in their store traveled from farm to slaughter or from farm to feedlot, and whether consumers were provided with information such as store signage to make an informed choice when purchasing meat products.
API encouraged retailers to do one or more of the following:
- Incorporate animal transport time limits into store meat-purchasing policies or existing store labeling programs such as “locally grown,” “family-farmed,” or “handled with care.”
- Provide customers with purchasing choice by informing shoppers of the availability of beef, pork, or lamb products requiring no more than 8 hours transport from farm to feeding area or from feeding area to processing plant
Response from Mainstream Retail Grocery Stores
Of the 13 mainstream retail grocery stores contacted, only 3 responded favorably to API indicating that the welfare of animals during transport was an issue of concern and importance to the company. The stores providing positive responses were Nugget Market, Whole Foods, and Wild Oats.
Nugget Market responded right away and checked with its suppliers to make sure that none of their suppliers transported animals more than 8 hours. Whole Foods informed us that transport limits have or will be incorporated into the new “Animal Compassionate Standards” that are being developed. Under the new program producers who comply will be distinguished by a special label. (See Note.) Wild Oats was working to gather the information, but became part of Whole Foods before it could complete the survey.
The remaining 10 major retailers — Wal-Mart, Price Chopper, Shaw’s, Gleason’s, Carnival Foods, Kroger, Safeway, Albertson’s, Trader Joe’s, and Raley’s — either failed to respond at all or indicated that they had no responsibility to consider transport distances for the sake of the animals or their customers. Retailers Wal-Mart and Raley’s even ignored letters from their own customers who wrote in response to API’s action alerts on this issue.
Results of the Co-op and Natural Food Retailer Survey
API also sent information packets, DVDs, and surveys to 107 Co-ops or independent natural food retailers. Twenty-five percent of the stores contacted responded to the API survey.
- A full 80% of those responding to the survey question of how far animals used to produce pork, beef, or lamb offered in their stores travel, said that the animals traveled less than 8 hours; 20% responded that some but not all of their products involved more that 8 hours of live transport.
- Forty-four percent of stores responding to the survey indicated that they provide customers with the opportunity to choose products that did not require the long-distance transport of live animals. The remaining stores failed to answer the question.
- The majority of stores responded that customers were made aware of which products required long-distance transport and which did not, by use of in-store signage. A few stores not currently using signage said that they would consider providing in-store labeling, and one store created a new label that says “minimal transport required” to help meat purchasing customers make an informed choice.
- Many Co-ops indicated that their purchasing policies favored locally produced products which included animal products. Several stores said that they would consider adding specific transport time limits for animals to their policies after learning of the issue.
In their own words ... some positive responses from Co-ops and Natural Food stores
- “Each farm has a sign near their product that tells how many miles there are between the farm and our store.” Menomonie Food Co-op, Menomonie, Wisconsin
- “We have a buy local referendum, all meat products are bought from farmers within 100–150 miles.” Honest Weight Co-op, Albany, New York
- “We share your concerns regarding the humanitarian aspects of long transports. We also prefer products throughout our entire store that come from as close to home as possible for environmental reasons.” Deep Roots Market, Greensboro, North Carolina
- “[Our store] published the article [API] sent in our newsletter to help educate our customers about this issue so that hopefully they can begin asking questions at the other markets and grocery stores where they shop.” Food Conspiracy Co-op, Tucson, Arizona
- “We are looking at updating our standards for producers and will consider transport distances when we do.” New Pioneer Co-op, Coralville, Iowa
- “We currently have many meat products which do comply with your transport criteria — and we are working on new sources for the products that currently don’t comply.” Outpost Natural Foods, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Currently, three independent, third-party food certification programs in the U.S. include standards for the care and handling of animals — Certified Organic (administered by the USDA), Certified Humane (administered by Humane Farm Animal Care) and Free Farmed (administered by the American Humane Association). However, these certification programs do not limit transit times.
API contacted the administrators of both the “Certified Humane” and “Free Farmed” labeling programs and urged them to consider incorporating transport limits into their labeling standards. However, neither label said that they would incorporate transport limits into their standards. As such, consumers and retailers cannot rely on these labels to offer assurance that animals used to make products bearing these labels did not endure long-distance transport.
Note: While the Whole Foods Animal Compassionate Standards is not a formal certification program (as it will be used only for Whole Foods stores), these standards thus far are the only standards that include transport limits.
The Road Ahead
API will continue to educate retailers in response to requests from our members asking to send information packets to their local stores that have not yet been contacted.
We will also place advertisements in environmental and grocer trade magazines that will further reinforce our message and encourage retailers and consumers to help put an end to long-distance transport of farmed animals.