Representatives from the national supermarket chain Whole Foods announced at a press conference today that, after years of demand from customers, all produce in their stores will now come from farms with humanely treated, cage-free workers.
“To prevent your produce from becoming tainted with harsh chemicals, our farmhands have always been free from antibiotics and given organic, non-GMO feed,” Whole Foods spokesperson David Hardy said. “But now we are excited to take our quality commitment to the next level by providing customers with fresh fruits and vegetables harvested exclusively by workers who have never been crammed into stacked cages.”
Hardy went on to explain the productivity benefits of allowing workers to spend non-farming hours roaming or nesting where they choose. Industry studies show farm workers who are forced into tiny enclosures are often overweight, sluggish, and weak, leading to slow workdays with more picking errors. The increased movement afforded laborers on cage-free farms promotes strong bones and well-developed muscles, leading to more efficient harvests and a higher crop yield.
“The benefits to the land are tremendous,” Whole Foods-certified farmer Ray Halverson said. Halverson removed the cramped wire cages from his worker coops last year. “My stock roam freely on the farm and are able to supplement their regular feed by eating insects and compost that might otherwise be thrown away or contaminate crops. Pests are excellent sources of additional nutrition for laborers, but can be detrimental to our own food supply.”
“And, of course,” Halverson added, “wherever you have grazing farmhands, you have naturally occurring fertilizer.”
Critics expressed concern that allowing workers to run loose makes them more vulnerable to predators, but Halverson said he’s seen lower mortality rates overall since making the change.