Grocer Earth Fare commits to improving the treatment of chickens

ASHEVILLE — A locally-based supermarket chain is taking a tougher stance on what goes on its shelves.

This month, Earth Fare embraced the Better Chicken Commitment, launched by global animal welfare organization, The Humane League.

The Better Chicken Commitment calls for improved conditions for chickens raised for meat and for producers “to switch to more environmentally friendly breeds of chicken to significantly reduce daily suffering”. In addition, the organization is lobbying for producers to move away from slaughter using a chain.

The widely used method involves chickens being slammed upside down in metal chains, put in an electric water bath while still alive, according to The Humane League.

“The mission is to end the abuse of animals raised for food,” said Beth Anne Hendrickson, corporate relations manager at The Humane League. “We are focused on farm animal welfare and much of our work is centered around…partnering with food companies who want to make animal welfare a priority and helping them set achievable goals . Our goal is to push the industry to higher standards at all levels.

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Set the standard

Earth Fare has established an action plan to implement higher standards for chicken sourcing, including its company-wide fresh, frozen and rotisserie chicken supplies.

Earth Fare has 23 stores in eight states across the country with the flagship store at 66 Westgate Parkway in Asheville. Two additional stores will open soon in Ohio and Florida.

Earth Fare is an Asheville-based company with over 20 locations nationwide.

Earth Fare is founded on the philosophy of providing healthy food to consumers. The Asheville-based natural and organic supermarket offers foods free of added hormones, artificial fats and trans fats, bleached or brominated flour, antibiotics, high corn fructose, as well as artificial sweeteners, preservatives, colorings or flavorings.

Earth Fare’s adoption of The Better Chicken Commitment is another step towards proving better options for the way people eat and shop.

“At Earth Fare, we believe that improving animal welfare is a key part of good ethical business and should apply to all breeds of animals; a belief we have stood for for over four decades,” said Laurie Aker, Chief Marketing Officer, Earth Fare, in a press release.

Earth Fare is already on track with 30% of the chicken sold at the grocer being processed in controlled atmosphere stunning facilities, a method that uses gases for slaughter and is determined to improve the well – to be animals. Earth Fare has agreed to increase the percentage to 80% by 2024 and 100% by 2025.

“They already have a head start on some of their competition, which is great,” Hendrickson said. “What they will need to do to ensure that all the chicken they carry into store meets the standards by the dates they have set.”

The Humane League's Better Chicken Commitment campaign calls for improved animal welfare.

The grocer pledges to “increase the amount of space allowance per bird, require bedding, lighting and enrichments in accordance with Global Animal Partnership standards by 2024.” Also, switch to slower growing chicken breeds by 2026.

“Through the Better Chicken Commitment, we are proud to implement higher ethical standards for broiler chickens,” said Aker. “As part of our ongoing process to improve animal welfare, we engage our suppliers and NGOs to ensure that our policies and goals for continuous improvement are progressive, meaningful and continue to raise awareness in the industry. »

lead the industry

The Better Chicken Commitment is about holding the agriculture industry accountable and establishing a foundation for ethical standards that don’t exist, Hendrickson said.

“Unfortunately, there are no federal laws on how chickens are raised, so a lot of that is left to industry practices and standards,” she said. “That means a lot of what governs the chicken industry and the factory farming industry, as a whole, has to do with maximizing profits.”

Broiler chickens in a large facility.

The Better Chicken Commitment focuses on broiler chickens used for meat. Chickens are a priority because they make up 90% of animals consumed in the United States, according to The Humane League.

The lack of federal regulations for better animal welfare leaves it up to industry to recognize problems and act to improve them, Hendrickson said.

“We want to be a resource on what standards mean and how they can implement those standards and ensure that companies that have made commitments in the past are able to progress over time,” Hendrickson said. “One good thing about the Earth Fare policy is that they have already shown that they are making progress every year and working towards it.”

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Earth Fare joins a growing list of companies nationwide to sign the Better Chicken Commitment. The Human League works with grocers, restaurants, food manufacturers and businesses including Whole Foods, Kroger, Sprouts, Nestlé, Kraft-Heinz, Burger King and Chipotle.

McDonald’s has taken steps to phase out live slaughter, Hendrickson said. The company announced its commitment to chicken sustainability and the formation of its Chicken Sustainability Advisory Council.

“You can imagine they’re a huge buyer of chicken, and in response we’ve seen several key industry players start moving towards these better chicken processing systems, like Tyson,” he said. she stated.

The Humane League follows up with companies on their commitments to review their progress against their individual goals, Hendrickson said.

“When a company adopts a policy, it usually means it’s a goal to work toward,” she said. “Most companies don’t start like Earth Fare, where they already have higher wellness products. For the most part, they start from scratch.

Tiana Kennell is a food and restaurant reporter for the Asheville Citizen Times, part of the USA Today Network. Email her at or follow her on Twitter/Instagram @PrincessOfPage. Help support this type of journalism by subscribing to the Citizen Times.

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