May 4, 2012
Whole Foods Ground Beef Outscores Touring Musicians on Animal Welfare Scale
Space to move around, access to enrichments earn livestock superior marks
BOSTON, MA —Whole Foods has recently adopted an animal welfare rating system for its beef, pork, and chicken products, and the national chain is touting what it calls a new level of transparency in how farm animals are raised.
As many folk musicians know, meat sold in Whole Foods stores is now labeled with color-coded stickers indicating the source farm’s score on a five-tiered animal agriculture scale.
According to the Global Animal Partnership, the independent auditing agency that assigns the grades, even achieving the lowest rating of 1 still requires that an animal be raised on a strict vegetarian diet devoid of antibiotics and additional chemicals.
“It’s really important to note that getting to Step 1 is a huge accomplishment in the [meat] industry!” wrote an enthusiastic Theo Weening of the Whole Foods blog.
“In the music industry, very few, if any, human touring professionals make it to Step 1,” noted T. Galpin, a recent music school graduate.
“I’d be disqualified for exposure to large amounts of caffeine, penicillin, pesticidal bug spray, automobile exhaust, very questionable keg beer, secondhand smoke, firsthand smoke, methyl anthrinilate, Early Times, so much processed meat, generic suntan lotion from China, Diet Mountain Dew, that kind of thing. And of course, the occasional psychedelic,” said Galpin.
“Oh yeah, and lead, copper, zinc and arsenic, which do pop up in moonshine from time to time,” he added.
In addition to a proper diet, animals raised to Step 1 must have personal space in which to move around and stretch their legs, a baseline requirement for animal comfort.
“Well, I fly coach pretty much constantly. Or worse — drive. Once my band drove 1000 miles straight with five guys in a Honda Accord,” commented M. Barnett, a touring fiddle player.
“Pretty sure that day alone would disqualify all of us from ever getting certified Step 1,” said bandmate D. Leslie.
Barnett, whose parents are both doctors, recently purchased two pounds of grass-fed ground beef rated at Step 2.
Step 2 animals must be provided with additional daily enrichments that encourage behavior that is natural to them. For example, a pig may be provided with a bowling ball to push around.
Interestingly, Barnett has gone bowling only three times in the last year.
“For this individual to be eating such high quality cheeseburger meat is, quite frankly, a puzzling reversal of the entire food chain,” said E. Ford, a biologist.
Although a few critics have blasted the Whole Foods rating system as yet another ploy to overcharge wealthy consumers for perceived peace of mind, most animal rights activists still concentrate their fire on the appalling factory farms that produce most of the meat in the USA.
According to the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), factory-farmed animals are typically made to sleep in “tiny, filthy, jam-packed areas, often with so little space that they can’t even turn around or lie down comfortably.”
“Dude, on tour I routinely share one single bed with like two of my bandmates. We have to sleep in shifts,” said M. Calabrese, a folk songwriter.
“Just the other day I slept on a hardwood floor under a table in a 10’ by 12’ room with five other people, and that was the nicest place I stayed all week,” said Calabrese.
“By far,” he added, shuddering slightly.
PETA goes on to describe livestock “completely deprived of exercise so that all their bodies’ energy goes toward producing flesh, eggs, or milk for human consumption.”
“Substitute the word ‘music’ for ‘flesh, eggs or milk’ and you might as well be talking about being on tour,” said Barnett.
And according to PETA, factory farmed animals are “routinely fed drugs to keep them alive in conditions that could otherwise kill them.”
“Kind of like touring in Denmark,” said B. Kearney, whose band Joy Kills Sorrow recently performed a Danish show without its road-sickened lead singer.
Meanwhile, back at Whole Foods the animal welfare ratings extend all the way up to Step 5+, certifying celebrity animals that are born and live their entire lives on only one single farm, completely unharmed by human hands.
“It’s been a hundred years or more since a folk musician made it anywhere near Step 5+,” said Galpin.