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    Animal Welfare Group Ranks Supermarkets by Humane Food Availability

    In addition to releasing the results of a survey of almost 200 stores, the World Society for the Protection of Animals introduced a new Web site that explains human food designations.

    Whole Foods ranked first in a survey rating 23 U.S. supermarket chains by the availability of humanely labeled food in their stores, which the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) released yesterday.

    The animal welfare organization additionally launched the Web site www.EatHumane.org, which provides detailed survey results and explains and rates humane food labels according to their verifiable impact on animal welfare.

    The aim of the survey and the site is to help consumers seek out and choose more humane foods when shopping, according to Boston-based WSPA.

    "Many people prefer to buy food that comes from humanely raised animals and are willing to pay more for it," noted WSPA USA program manager Dena Jones. "Finding these products is often challenging because most food for sale in major U.S. supermarkets comes from animals raised under intensive confinement on large, factory-style farms. Even when consumers find humanely labeled products, interpreting what the labels mean in terms of how the animals are treated is a challenge."

    WSPA staff and volunteers polled nearly 200 individual stores in 34 states across the United States, including Alaska and Hawaii. They recorded the availability of humanely labeled products in four categories -- dairy, eggs, unprocessed meat and poultry, and processed meat and poultry -- and ranked stores according to both the quantity and quality of the food selection.

    Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods offers twice as many humanely labeled items per store as the company that came in second, Rochester, N.Y.-based Wegmans Food Market. Next in the ranking were Harris Teeter, H.E. Butt Grocery Co., Kroger, Publix, Hy-Vee, Meijer, Safeway, Trader Joe's, Ahold USA, Giant Eagle, Target, Supervalu, A&P, DeCA, Roundy's, Delhaize America, Winn-Dixie, Bi-Lo, and Save Mart. The lowest scorers were Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart Stores and San Bernadino, Calif.-based Stater Bros. Markets.

    The www.EatHumane.org site rates humane food labels as "A GOOD Start," "Even BETTER," or "The BEST Options," based on the standards of animal care and whether they require third-party verification. As well as discussing American Humane Certified, Animal Welfare Approved, and Certified Humane labeling programs run by WSPA member societies, the site rates and explains what terms such as "natural," "free range," "USDA organic," and "cage free" really mean in regard to the way the animals raised for food are treated.

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