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    Whole Foods Survey Shows 'Strong Demand' for Natural Meats

    AUSTIN, Texas -- A nationwide survey released yesterday by Whole Foods Market shows that meat is as popular as ever in the United States: Americans eat meat an average of 4.2 times a week, or 218 times a year. The survey additionally revealed, however, that along with flavor, safety and the humane treatment of animals were the top motives for selecting high-quality meat and poultry.

    AUSTIN, Texas -- A nationwide survey released yesterday by Whole Foods Market shows that meat is as popular as ever in the United States: Americans eat meat an average of 4.2 times a week, or 218 times a year. The survey additionally revealed, however, that along with flavor, safety and the humane treatment of animals were the top motives for selecting high-quality meat and poultry.

    When it comes to grilling, 74 percent of respondents picked chicken as their favorite choice, closely followed by steak, at 66 percent, and hamburger, at 60 percent. More U.S. grillers are now going for natural meat, with 65 percent of Americans wanting assurance that all meat and poultry products they buy are free from added growth hormones and antibiotics, and that the animals were humanely raised. Sixty-one percent of those polled said that it was important that meat and poultry products' that comply with these standards should be so labeled.

    While 51 percent said that having set standards for meat products was a key factor in deciding where to shop for meat, when asked if they'd ever bought items meeting such standards, 51 percent admitted that they were unsure.

    "The results of this survey tell us that Americans are lacking information about the way their meat and poultry is raised, and that having more information is nearly as important as the flavor of the meat they purchase," said Edmund LaMacchia, Whole Foods v.p. of purchasing, perishables. "This clearly shows there is a strong demand for natural meat as Whole Foods Market defines it: raised without added growth hormones, any antibiotics -- ever, no animal byproducts in the feed, and with specific standards for humane treatment through the life of the animal."

    Another key survey finding was that taste tests might be more of a motivator for consumers to switch to natural meat than concerns about safety or animal welfare. When asked what would make them invest more in meat purchases, 77 percent said a guarantee that the meat would consistently be the best and most flavorful every time; 59 percent said a guarantee that it came from a trusted source and was raised without growth hormones or antibiotics; and 43 percent said a guarantee that it was raised humanely.

    Whole Foods Market only sells meat and poultry in accordance with the following standards: no antibiotics, ever; no added growth hormones; humane animal husbandry, handling during transport, and slaughter; no animal byproducts in feed, including feather-meal or rendered fat; and no more than one-third of an animal's life can be spent on a feedlot.

    Additionally, the retailer is helping shoppers prepare their meat purchases through new recipes on its Web site and online features such as a virtual "My Recipes Box" and a three-part educational podcast series on natural meat.

    Equation conducted the "Natural Meats and Poultry Survey," commissioned by Whole Foods, in April 2006. The sample size of the nationally representative online survey was 1,014 Americans age 25 or older, with a margin of error +/- 3.1 percent. The sample comprised individuals randomly drawn from Equation's licensed, research-only panel, screened for active involvement in food/beverage shopping choices for their families, and balanced to be representative of the general population based on region, gender, age, and household income data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

    Whole Foods currently operates more than 180 stores in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. The company employs more than 39,000 people.

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