AUSTIN, Texas — Whole Foods Market is providing shoppers with a new level of transparency about how farm animals are raised by offering beef, pork and chicken certified under its Five-Step Animal Welfare Rating system. The rating system is the signature program of Global Animal Partnership, a nonprofit organization that advocates improvement in animal agriculture.

Third-party audits of farms are conducted and auditors rate animal-welfare practices and conditions using system that ranges from Step One (no crates, no cages, no crowding) to Step Five+ (animals spend their entire lives on one farm). The system provides a way to identify producers by promoting continuous improvement in farm animal welfare.

The steps used in the rating system are:

Step One: No cages, no crates, no crowding
Step Two: Enriched environment
Step Three: Enhanced outdoor access
Step Four: Pasture centered
Step Five: Animal centered; no physical alterations
Step Five-Plus: Animal centered; entire life on the same farm

More than 1,200 farms and ranches providing the company’s 291 US locations with products have received Step certification through independent, third-party certifiers. Color-coded signs and stickers throughout Whole Foods Market meat departments identify these ratings.

Step-rated options are now available at all US Whole Foods Market stores and by May 9, all beef, pork and chicken carried in the fresh and pre-packaged cases will be rated according to Five-Step Animal Welfare Rating standards. Additional species will be rated as Global Animal Partnership standards are completed.