Saying it is doing what’s right for animals, Whole Foods Market plans to implement more humane animal handling standards and will require all suppliers meet those standards by late 2004.

Whole Foods, a natural foods retailer with 147 stores and sales of $3.2 billion last year, will be the first major grocery chain to make such a move. While the retailer admits pressure from animal rights groups may have played a small role in their decision, the fact is animal welfare is on everyone’s radar. A recent Gallup poll showed that 96 percent of Americans say “animals deserve "some" protection from harm and exploitation.”

Whole Foods will use an independent third party to conduct audits. That group has yet to be selected.

USA Today