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Viva!’s response to some Whole Foods’ (Bread and Circus/Fresh Fields) recent claims

Keep in mind that the two duck farms investigated by Viva! are Grimaud Farms and Maple Leaf Farms. According to Whole Foods Corporate Office, they will no longer carry duck meat from Maple Leaf Farms. Below deals specifically with Grimaud Farms.


All the ducks are raised in environmentally controlled houses.

Some of these farms house ducks completely indoors without access to fresh air or daylight.

These houses offer warmth during the winter and are cooled during the summer to ensure comfort of the ducks.

Investigations have been conducted inside of Grimaud. During the warmer months they were found to be unbearably hot and humid. One of the Grimaud Farms sheds was so cold during March that the investigators could see their breath.

There is ample room for the ducks to roam.

Video and photos do not show that this is always the case. Bill trimming is evidence that the Muscovy ducks do not have adequate space.

There are NO slotted [sic]floors. The floor is dirt, which is covered with wood shavings (cedar). The wood shavings keep the house clean and dry. Clean shavings are added on an as needed basis. (About every two days). After each flock the house is cleaned to bare dirt, disinfected and left empty for 10-14 days to prevent any bacteria from growing. The wood shavings and manure are composted and used in crop production.

Please see our video and photos of Grimaud Farms. The floors seem to be slatted or grated. Wood shavings are not completely covering the flooring. Investigators of Grimaud Farms have reported overwhelming smells of ammonia.


Then [sic] birds have access to food and water 24 hours a day 7 days a week. The feed is a mixture of natural grains with supplements of vitamins and minerals. No animal by-products are ever added to the feed. Water is available at all times in a bell shaped bowl that helps keep the house dry and prevents the water from becoming contaminated with dirt, manure feathers, etc.

Without enough water to immerse their heads, ducks suffer welfare problems, especially eye problems that can result in blindness.


The bill or beak is never removed. Because the Muscovy duck is a very aggressive and territorial bird as it matures, there is a need to reduce the sharp edge of the cartilage located on the end of the bill. This is NEVER done with a hot iron. When the birds are very young and the cartilage is very soft the end of the bill is clipped in the same manner in which a dog or cats nails would be clipped. The bird shows no ill effect and shows no signs of discomfort. This procedure will prevent the birds from inflicting wounds that can cause infection and even death.

Viva! has studies stating that the ducks’ bill is innervated (supplied with nerves) to the tip. Cat and dog’s toenails are not innervated to the tip, nor are they made of cartilage. A better analogy would be cutting off the tip of your nose, which is made of cartilage.

Whole Foods has been provided at the corporate level and some regional offices with documentation of a study co-authored by someone at Grimaud Farms of France which states that this process is ’traumatic to the bird’ and that it has a lasting impact.

The Council of Europe specifically says of Muscovies: "The beak is richly innervated and very well supplied with sensory receptors and the Council of Europe (1999) calls bill trimming a 'mutilation' that "results in damage or loss of a sensitive structure - causing a significant amount of pain and distress."

We would like to see Whole Foods’ evidence that these ducks do not feel pain.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) with whom Whole Foods and Grimaud are in contact about their standards, does not allow de-billing for acceptance into their program.


Our ducks are never boiled alive. All of our livestock is humanely stunned and are then bled out.

According to the Food Safety Inspection Services (a branch of the USDA), thousands of ducks are boiled alive every year. Though it may sound easy to prevent, boiling ducks alive is an inevitable by-product of modern poultry slaughtering methods. Grimaud Farms slaughters 8,000 ducks a week at their farm in California. With Grimaud Farms slaughtering so many ducks, it is hard to believe not one of the ducks boiled alive comes from their slaughter plants. Unless WF can prove that they have overcome this problem that pervades the poultry industry, no one should believe their claims that none of the ducks have been boiled alive.

In addition, an analysis of bird stunning methods in ’Humane slaughter of poultry: the case against the use of electrical stunning devices’ (Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics vol 7, 1994) sheds serious doubts on whether electrical stunning can ever be considered ’humane.’ The authors say the electric shock may be an ’intensely painful experience.’


The Muscovy duck origin is the swamps of South America and in the wild they only go in the water in search of food. These birds are not migrant and would prefer to roost rather than swim. Because of these characteristics no water for wading or swimming is provided.

Ducks, as water birds, need water to fulfill biological requirements. Not being able to rinse their eyes in water contributes to opthalmia, a low-grade infection in one or both eyes often called ’sticky eye.’

The UK Government’s Ministry of Agriculture states that if ducks cannot immerse their heads: ’their eyes get scaly and crusty and, in extreme cases, blindness may follow.’ According to the Council of Europe, Muscovies fly, swim, and walk efficiently. After feeding, the ducks bathe and then carry out shaking movements to remove water. Muscovies spend considerable time performing complex preening behaviors which require water. The Council says that Muscovy ducks are bred to be heavy, have difficulty walking, and are subject to leg disorders.

Muscovies mate on water, feed largely on water, and need water to preen - needing water all over their body. They need to preen to remove dirt, distribute oil, and for heat regulation.

Ducks naturally keep themselves clean. In these sheds, ducks have no way to remove filth and excrement.

As long as Whole Foods sells duck meat, Viva! has a responsibility to inform their customers of the conditions in which these ducks are kept.