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Viva!’s response to Whole Foods flyer:


1. Whole Foods Market does not sell factory-farmed ducks from Maple Leaf Farms. The ducks we sell are grown by Grimaud Farms. Grimaud Farms raises ducks in small barns housing less than 1,000 ducks. The ducks are raised with no antibiotics or growth hormones.

Whole Foods in certain regions do not sell Maple Leaf Farms (MLF). Viva! has not been able to ascertain if this is true of all the regions. In January 2001, the Mid Atlantic region pulled Maple Leaf Farms in response to our efforts.

Whole Foods does sell factory farmed duck meat from Grimaud Farms of California. Grimaud raises Muscovy ducks in barns without access to the outdoors.

2. The ducks we sell are Muscovy ducks from South America. They are not Pekins or Mallards.

Viva!’s leaflet ’Ducks Out of Water’ deals with all duck factory farmed in the USA. In fact, our leaflet does not list Whole Foods. Given Whole Foods reputation, Viva! felt that when they found out they were selling factory farmed duck meat they would want nothing to do with Grimaud or MLF. We were wrong.

In Viva!’s Ducks Out of Water report, we state that Muscovy ducks originated in South America. They are used to feeding on plants and a variety of other foods. They are wild birds who fly and swim.

3. The ducks live on bedding of cedar and pine wood shavings. Fresh layers of wood shavings are placed in each barn every two days to eliminate odor and to maintain proper sanitation.

Viva! investigators reported that the ducks were in filthy conditions and some were having trouble walking. One of the sheds was in total darkness; the heat and smell of ammonia were both unbearable.

The ducks are forced to live on slatted floors. According to one duck farming book, ’An increased incidence of leg deformities and inferior growth has been observed in ducklings kept on all slat floors compared to others kept on wire.’

Viva!’s photos show the flooring of the ducks - with the wood shavings and without.

4. The ducks have free access to trough waterers. They are not watered using nipple dispensers.

Viva!’s leaflet discusses the factory farming of ducks in general, most farms use nipple drinkers.

It is unclear if the ducks are actually able to immerse themselves in the ’trough waterers’ of which Whole Foods speaks. Some of the birds appear only to have bell drinkers at Grimaud Farms - these do not enable the birds to do more than drink.

5. The bill on each of these ducks ends in a sharp tip. Only the sharp tip of the ducks bill is trimmed. The ducks beak is not amputated. There is some discussion among veterinarians concerning this practice, but most veterinarians compare trimming this small point to trimming a fingernail. Whole Foods market is currently working with Grimaud to eliminate this trimming practice entirely.

By definition, this process is de-beaking, also called de-billing. Please see Viva!’s photos of Grimaud Farms of California. Clearly, more than just the tip is removed from some of the bills. This process is typically done to prevent feather pulling - a behavior caused by the stressful environment.

Viva! has provided Whole Foods 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.’

6. Whole Foods Market is also currently working with Grimaud Farms to move towards the possibility of the free-range raising of ducks.

But in the meantime, Whole Foods is admitting to selling factory farmed duck meat.

7. Whole Food Market is committed to working with responsible growers to continue to improve farming practices. Grimaud Farms is open to our suggestions for improvement and is working with us to meet our specifications.

Currently, Grimaud Farms does not meet Whole Foods supposed specifications and, therefore, Whole Foods should not be buying from them at this time.

8. Animal welfare has always been one of Whole Foods Market’s primary missions as a company and will continue to be now and in the future.

McDonald’s is a corporation not known for humane treatment of animals, but they are now saying they will stop working with farms that do not meet certain humane standards. It seems Whole Foods should join them.

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.