Whole Foods No Longer Rules the Roost on Ethically Raised Chicken

exterior of a Whole Foods Market in Andover, Mass.
The exterior of a Whole Foods Market in Andover, Mass. Elise Amendola/AP Photo

There’s nothing like the smell of chicken on the grill. So many choices. Add a little barbecue sauce to it? Garlic Parmesan or teriyaki?

When you want good chicken — and I mean the really good chicken — where do you go to buy it? Whole Foods Market, right?

Maybe. Maybe not.

The Glory of Whole Foods Chicken

For years we’ve heard about the the awesomeness of the chicken you can buy at Whole Foods. I mean, the store is not called “America’s Healthiest Grocery Store” for nothing. It advertises its chicken as raised with:

  • No antibiotics — ever
  • No animal byproducts in feed
  • No physical alterations
  • Appropriate litter provided for comfort and to satisfy natural foraging instincts
  • No supplemental growth hormones

The company also says its chickens (as well as its other meats) must meet its “5-Step Animal Welfare” rating. That means the animals are raised with room to roam, natural grazing and no added chemicals or hormones. Happy critters, essentially.

Here’s the good news: We don’t have any reason to doubt these claims.

But that awesome chicken at Whole Foods may not be so special, according to a Bloomberg report.

As consumers trend toward healthier, more natural options, producers have caught on. That means there are more chickens being raised and sold that fit the same criteria that have made Whole Foods chicken such a popular product.

Chicken producers like Perdue are raising chickens that live up to the same standards and selling them to Whole Foods, as well as many other markets. In fact, some Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value chicken breasts are packaged at the same Perdue plant that ships chicken to several other stores.

So, What’s the Difference?

The price. That’s about it.

Even though you can save a little money at Whole Foods by knowing when to shop, you may do better elsewhere. Whole Foods created such a demand for naturally raised, cage-free chicken that it’s become widely available at other stores.

While Whole Foods charges a premium price for its chicken, you can often find the same quality chicken at your local grocer for considerably less.

A quick look at my local Whole Foods online showed that 365 brand boneless, skinless chicken breasts were $5.49 per pound. I popped across the street to our local Publix and found Perdue brand boneless, skinless, cage-free chicken breasts with an all-vegetarian diet and no animal byproducts, hormones or steroids for $3.49 per pound.

All in all, this is a good thing. You don’t have to go to the “healthy” stores anymore to find the responsibly raised meat products you’ve come to trust. Watch your labels at your local supermarket and save big time.

Tyler Omoth is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder who loves soaking up the sun and finding creative ways to help others. Catch him on Twitter at @Tyomoth.

Did this article help put money in your pocket?