At PCC, we believe the way humans treat farm animals is integral to our own general well-being and the health of our planet. We believe we have a responsibility to see that livestock are raised humanely, free of pain, fear, and psychological stress, and that they’re able to express their natural behaviors. We believe animals are capable of experiencing happiness and enjoyment of life. This is the foundation of PCC’s standards for animal welfare. We believe they’re among the strongest in the grocery industry.
We understand some consumers believe it’s unethical to consume any animal products and that taking an animal’s life for food cannot be considered humane. We also accept that our role as a retailer is to provide the most humane choices for omnivorous shoppers.
NO CAGES, NO CRATES
PCC does not allow fresh eggs, milk or meat from caged animals or animals confined to crates or stalls. We believe all farm animals must have ample space indoors and out to express behaviors natural to their species.
This means birds have room to stretch their wings, dust-bathe, perch and nest. We do not allow eggs from caged hens. PCC sells a variety of eggs from hens that are cage-free, free-range, organic and/or pastured.
PCC standards prohibit gestation crates or farrowing crates for sows and we will not sell any fresh meat from hogs kept in such crates or stalls.
PCC also does not sell veal because veal calves may be raised in crates or stalls.
Changes in an animal’s routine can be stressful. PCC suppliers employ low-stress methods to guide animals gently and with care during routine handling, such as loading or offloading before and after transport. This means no electric prods for cattle, except in rare emergency situations when safety is an issue.
OUTDOOR ACCESS AND PASTURE
We believe that raising animals outdoors is the healthiest, most humane environment and eliminates the causes of many, if not most, practices that are considered inhumane. We therefore have made sure all our fresh meat and poultry (and fresh milk) is from animals with outdoor access, and often open range or pasture.
Certified organic ruminant animals must be pastured at least 120 days each year, effectively throughout the growing season. Outside the growing season, conditions may be so wet, muddy or cold that indoor shelter is the most humane choice for ruminant animals, allowing access outdoors when weather permits.
An exception to PCC’s outdoor access standard is “cage-free” eggs. “Cage-free” means no cages; it does not mean hens have access outdoors. PCC is working to make all our fresh eggs free-range as soon as supplies allow.
NO ADDED HORMONES OR ANTIBIOTICS
All fresh meat and milk sold at PCC is produced without added hormones and antibiotics. This means non-therapeutic or sub-therapeutic antibiotics or other drugs to promote growth are prohibited, as well as ionophores — used to increase “feed efficiency” and weight gain in dairy cows and cattle.
When animals on an organic farm fall ill, organic standards require treatment to restore health but the products cannot be sold as organic; they’re diverted to the non-organic supply stream.
NO ANIMAL BYPRODUCTS IN FEED
The U.S. Department of Agriculture still allows cooking oil from restaurants and food processors, blood and blood products, pork and horse protein, feather meal, manure and hatchery waste in conventional U.S. livestock feed. We believe it is inhumane to feed animals such ingredients and that they do not contribute to a wholesome product.
All PCC fresh meat providers prohibit animal byproducts.
PCC opposes cloning as an animal welfare issue and will not accept any meat products made with ingredients from cloned animals or their offspring.
Since labeling is not required, PCC requires signed affidavits from all our fresh meat suppliers to ensure no fresh meat products are from cloned animals or their offspring.
Farm visits and inspections are the basis of all valid certifications. At PCC, our knowledgeable staff makes a point of developing relationships with our suppliers and visits their facilities before we sell their products.
PCC buyers visit fresh meat, dairy and egg suppliers on an ongoing basis to ensure compliance with our animal welfare checklist.
PCC believes we owe it to farm animals to provide humane end-of-life conditions. We understand some people question whether any slaughter can be humane. We also accept that our role as a retailer is to provide the most humane choices for omnivorous shoppers.
All meat animals for PCC are rendered unconscious before slaughter in commercial facilities, except where smallholder farms utilize on-farm, humane slaughter practices.
“Smallholder farms” are defined as independently owned farms whose principal operator(s) owns the farm business and demonstrates a strong commitment to sustainable farm practices and animal welfare. The principal operator is the person who is responsible for the on-site, day-to-day decisions of the farm or ranch business. Any slaughter of animals on smallholder farms must take place on farm property with attention to humane slaughter practices where reasonable given farm size and scale. Gross sales of a smallholder farm must fall under $250,000.
We continue to work with vendors to ensure the most humane slaughter practices are being used.
We’re working with our fresh chicken suppliers to eradicate live-shackling and electrical stunning of birds before slaughter and instead utilize controlled atmosphere killing systems that are believed to be more humane. Some of our fresh chicken already meets this standard. We’ll demonstrate full compliance by 2024 via third party auditing.
ABOVE AND BEYOND
Some PCC ranchers go above and beyond the standards above, honoring additional animal welfare criteria. Lower-stress weaning methods and transport practices that aren’t addressed by organic standards or other certifications are additional criteria we seek out and are gathering information on.
While it’s not a requirement, many PCC meat and dairy vendors are committed to pasture-based operations, even if they’re not certified organic.
PCC will continue to visit longtime partners and seek out new ones that ensure animals a living environment free of pain, fear and psychological stress where they can express their natural behaviors.
We will continue to try to educate consumers about the choices in the marketplace. It’s integral to our own well-being and the health of our planet.
Better Chicken Initiative
PCC is the nation’s first retailer to commit to the Joint Animal Protection Organization Statement on Broiler Chicken Welfare in partnership with Compassion in World Farming’s Better Chicken Initiative. We hope we will inspire our industry to do better—especially in the ready-to-eat foods category.
PCC already offers members and shoppers organic chickens that meet a higher welfare standard than conventional commercial chicken. In addition, we will ensure that 100 percent of our fresh and frozen chicken and ready-to-eat chicken product suppliers meet the following by 2024:
- Transition to strains of birds accepted for use by RSPCA or Global Animal Partnership (GAP) based on measurably improved welfare outcomes.
- Reduce stocking density to a maximum of 6lb/sq ft and prohibit broiler cages.
- Provide birds enriched environments including litter, lighting and enrichment that meets GAP’s new standards.
- Process chickens in a manner that avoids pre-stun handling and instead utilizes a multi-step controlled atmosphere processing system that induces an irreversible stun.
- Demonstrate compliance with the above standards via third party auditing and annual progress reporting.
* This policy does not apply to packaged combination food products (including soups, sandwiches, pizzas, burritos, bullions, broths, frozen meals, and similar processed or prepared food products) that are comprised of more than chicken meat, seasoning, curing agents, coloring, flavoring, preservatives, and similar meat additives). This policy does include all unbranded, branded and private label items of fresh and frozen chicken and refrigerated, frozen and hot/cold ready-to-eat chicken products—including but not limited to nuggets, breasts, cutlets, tenders, wings, whole birds, legs, thighs and deli meats (with the Code of Federal Regulations defining ready-to-eat as: “A meat or poultry product that is in a form that is edible without additional preparation to achieve food safety and may receive additional preparation for palatability or aesthetic, epicurean, gastronomic, or culinary purposes”).