Supermarket giant Whole Foods is trying to appeal to the gentler side of its carnivorous clientele with the recent announcement that it will be placing "animal compassionate" labels on meats in which the animals were raised in a humane environment before going to the slaughter.
In media coverage of the new labeling system, Whole Foods has come up against skeptics who see it as a marketing tool and, more acutely, a poor one. There are no industry or government standards for placing such labels on meats, and it will raise the price of the meat. While this move may contribute to Whole Foods' overall reputation of being animal-friendly, it is a step that may only appeal to a small niche of animal lovers.
Why does it matter?
"A lot of retailers have tried to follow in Whole Foods' footsteps as far as providing high-end foods," says Steve Bryant, Seattle president and US chief creative officer for Publicis Dialog. "They need to stay on the leading edge. This is a way to do it."
Bryant suspects that consumers will pay more for these animal-friendly products and believes that Whole Foods is changing its practice because it sees financial opportunities. "Yet, I don't see this entirely as a financial move, as Whole Foods is a company that seems to be driven by a founder's passion for health and wellness," he adds.
Whole Foods caters to a clientele that tends to be more eco-friendly and ethically aware of what they eat, Bryant says.
1 As many of the new green or animal-friendly labels on products are hard to understand, the Consumers Union provides a guide and evaluation system to environmental labels on its Web site, www.eco-labels.org.
2 According to a 2006 report by the Farm Foundation, people in the US have a greater concern about how animals are treated before going to slaughter than they did 25 or 50 years ago.
3 The Food Marketing Institute consulted consumer focus groups and found that shoppers expect supermarkets to work with suppliers to ensure humane and ethical treatment of farm animals.
4 Currently, Wal-Mart is the largest food retailer in the US. The shift from traditional grocers to large-chain food stores has increased the need for smaller purveyors to offer something different in the form of eco-friendly offerings.
5 Compassion Over Killing, a nonprofit, launched the Hard-Boiled Truth campaign to promote ethical treatment of hens. Hen-friendly labels on eggs are currently more prominent than other animal-friendly labeling and have the biggest discrepancy in standards.