Frances Flower never dreamed a career in animal welfare would one day lead her to Texas and a job in a natural and organic foods supermarket. But shortly after completing her PhD in our Animal Welfare program in 2006, the British-born Flower was recruited by Whole Foods Market. She moved to Austin, where the grocery chain’s global office is located, and has spent the past nine years managing the day-to-day operations of their animal welfare program.
It all started with a love for animals.
“I loved studying animal behaviour, why animals do what they do,” Flower said. While working on a Masters in Applied Animal Behaviour and Animal Welfare at the University of Edinburgh in the 1990s, she came across an ad for a research project led by UBC Animal Welfare Professor Dan Weary. Flower jumped on the opportunity to be part of a project looking at the maternal bond between cow and calf, which was conducted at the UBC Dairy Education and Research Centre, a decision that led her to pursue her PhD in our Animal Welfare program.
“The UBC Animal Welfare program was a great experience,” she said. “The researchers are very well respected in the animal welfare world and we were exposed to a whole spectrum of animal welfare related issues.”
Flower’s experience working with dairy cows at the UBC Dairy Education and Research Centre prepared her well for her current role at Whole Foods; as a Livestock Associate, she works with 2,700 farmers and ranchers in the US, Canada and Australia to ensure that they meet the company’s strict animal welfare standards. Whole Foods Market requires that all the farms and ranches that supply meat to the stores (including beef cattle, pigs, chicken and turkey) must be third-party inspected and certified to Global Animal Partnership’s (GAP) 5-Step® Animal Welfare Rating Program. The 5-Step program is a multi-tiered set of standards that recognises producers for their welfare practices:
- encourages and inspires farmers and ranchers to move up the welfare ladder, if they so choose
- engages a broad spectrum of producers, rather than a minority segment of the agricultural community
- allows for a wider selection of products from farms and ranches for greater consumer options
- more accurately recognizes producers for their welfare practices
- better informs consumers about the production systems they may choose to support
“Consumers want to know how animals are raised,” she said, adding that the rating system has impacted the welfare of 290 million farm animals in the U.S., Canada and Australia. “We’re dedicated to helping our customers make informed choices about the food they eat.”