Trader Joe's Vs Whole Foods: Which Grocery Store Meat Counter Is Better?

Trader Joe's and Whole Foods are both trendy grocers these days, but the two popular chains are quite different. Many foodies might have discussed the ultimate question — "Would you rather live near a Trader Joe's or Whole Foods?" — because both stores have a cult-like following thanks to an array of specialty products and organic items. From all of the comparisons you can make between the two supermarkets, the meat department is a major difference. It's a factor we at Tasting Table discovered in our ranking of the 14 best grocery stores to buy meat.

In our ranking, Trader Joe's came out as one of the worst meat departments with the 13th spot. To be fair, much of the meat that the California-based chain sells is high quality and affordably priced but there isn't a huge selection. The store also doesn't have a meat counter to order cold cuts and freshly-cut steaks. In comparison, Whole Foods, which took third place, has a meat and seafood counter. It was ranked near the top due to its wide selection of high-quality meats, many of which are organic and hormone-free. Whole Foods also has rigorous quality standards for sourcing its meats from farms that use no antibiotics. Meanwhile, Trader Joe's sells some meats that are also sustainably sourced and antibiotic-free, but some meats might contain additives like antibiotics per its website.

Whole Foods offers both packaged meats and fresh cuts

We aren't the only ones who think Whole Foods' meat department is superior to Trader Joe's. In a 2023 Reddit thread, one Jersey City, New Jersey-based user says they prefer shopping at "Whole Foods for meat" while TJ's is their preference for "main groceries." Meanwhile, a February 2023 Yelp review of a Whole Foods in New York City says its "meat department is awesome." And it makes sense many shoppers agree because Whole Foods offers packaged meats like sausages under its own 365 brand and custom-cut meats and ready-to-cook marinated proteins from its butcher counter.

You might also expect to pay a premium for meat at Whole Foods, although its products have become more affordable since Amazon took it over. Despite its stand-out meat department, Whole Foods still isn't the absolute best store to buy meat according to our ranking (which, as a reminder, is subjective like any other review). There are many reasons why Sprouts is the best place to buy meat including its wide array of organic products. And to be fair, Trader Joe's does have some of the best chicken products including raw poultry like its shawarma chicken thighs and frozen foods like its mandarin orange chicken and chicken cilantro mini wontons for meals where you don't want to fuss with seasoning and cooking that high-quality meat from Whole Foods.