Whole Story

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Grass-Fed Beef Now Nationwide

By Theo Weening, May 6, 2010  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Theo Weening
We are excited to announce that Whole Foods Market now offers grass-fed and finished beef in all of our 281 stores in the United States. While this is a nationwide program, it isn’t based on national sourcing. True to our commitment to support our local communities, we partner with grass-fed producers from across the country including family farms in California, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Maine, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nebraska, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming. Increasingly, people are thinking about what they are eating and how it is produced. By partnering with producers across the country, Whole Foods Market hopes to help bring grass-fed ranching back into the mainstream because of its positive impact on the cattle, the environment and how it supports local communities. For beef cattle, grass is the most natural feed available. Cattle are designed to convert grasses, legumes and herbaceous plants into protein. Because it’s their natural environment, raising cattle on grass hearkens back to traditional methods. As well, most grass-fed ranchers are either independent, selling beef from only their own property or belong to a small, locally focused producer group. Like all meat sold at Whole Foods Market, grass-fed beef must meet our strict quality standards, which require that animals are raised on a vegetarian diet with no antibiotics or added growth hormones. In addition, all producers must meet specific and rigorous animal welfare standards that apply to all stages of an animal’s life and environment. Because grass-fed cattle are typically leaner than cattle that are fed grain, almost all cuts of grass-fed beef have less fat than beef that is grain finished. In addition, grass-fed beef has a distinct, vibrant flavor that some people prefer. Never cooked grass-fed beef before? Here are a few tips because it does cook up a bit differently than what you may be used to.
  • Since it’s leaner than grain-fed beef, grass-fed beef usually takes about 30% less time to cook, so pay attention to make sure you don’t overdo it. You can test it with a meat thermometer.
  • Make sure you aren’t starting with cold beef straight from the refrigerator. Starting ice cold can result in poorly cooked meat.
  • When using grass-fed beef in your favorite recipes, lower the cooking temperature of your oven by about 25°F. The cooking time will stay about the same.
  • When cooking on the grill, let the flames burn down more than you do for other meat.
  • Always use tongs, never a fork, to turn your beef. Piercing causes precious juices to be lost.
  • Remember to let the meat rest to allow the juices to redistribute before slicing.
Now some people ask me about the price of grass-fed beef. Bottom line is that it costs more for the ranchers to raise cattle this way, so they need to earn more off of each animal to make a living. For example, it takes longer to bring grass-fed cattle to market, so there’s more cost on the production end. Also, since grass-fed cattle are not fed grains, they are less efficient in gaining weight; sometimes weighing up to 250 less than grain fed cattle. That means the cost per pound paid to the rancher for each animal needs to be higher. I think very highly of our grass fed beef ranchers—ranching the way things used to be done, while taking care of our environment and helping local communities. Here’s just a sampling of the ranchers we partner with: Baldwin Family Farms — Yanceyville, NC The healthy herd of Charolais Cattle at Baldwin Family Farms enjoys grazing the nutrient rich pastures of an 800-acre multi-generational farm. Founders, V. Mac and Peggy Baldwin, practice a unique form of winter and summer grazing that allows the cattle to graze year round and produce high-quality, grass-fed, lean beef throughout every season. Circle N Ranch — Waurika, OK Gary and Lauren Nitschke, a second-generation, husband-and-wife team, have been in the ranching business for 54 years. Their cattle are raised to meet the guidelines of the Grassfed Livestock Alliance: an animal centered, pasture based system using high animal welfare standards that encompass all aspects of production, not confined to a feedlot. White Oak PasturesBluffton, GA Will Harris is a fourth generation cattleman whose 1,000-acre farm in South Georgia is home to about 650 grass-fed beef cattle that roam freely and graze on 100% Georgia native sweet grasses. With the help of a loan from Whole Foods Market, Will recently built an on-farm processing facility designed for low-stress animal handling while also minimizing the environmental impact. Simply Grazin’ Organic Farm — Skillman, NJ Simply Grazin’ practices rotational grazing, and the cattle have enough pasture to last them throughout the spring, summer and fall—they receive no grain at all. Organic hay is harvested all summer long and stored for their consumption throughout the long winter months. Eel River Organic Beef — Humboldt County, CA Clint Victorine has dedicated his entire career to raising high-quality beef with animal welfare prominently in focus. His cattle are raised on the clover and rye grass pastures of the beautiful Eel River Valley in Humboldt County, Northern CA. We believe that partnering with ranchers like these throughout the country gives us the chance to offer an alternative for consumers, animals and our planet. Have you tried grass-fed beef? What do you think about it?

 

134 Comments

Comments

FairTrade says ...
Great move WFM. And let's hope that one day all the beef sold in America is grass-fed.
05/06/2010 5:32:57 AM CDT
Food Makes Fun Fuel says ...
Hip hip hooray! I always get my grass fed ground beef when I'm at the whole foods near my campus, and I was worried they might not have that back home. I love the innitiative you guys put in to things!
05/06/2010 7:17:38 AM CDT
Tony says ...
Mmmmmmmmmmmm, beef. *turns on the grill*
05/06/2010 9:30:29 AM CDT
jennifer says ...
This news is yet another reason I will always shop at Whole Foods. Thank you so much for all you do to help America be a healthier, most natural place.
05/06/2010 10:50:45 AM CDT
Carrie (Love Healthy Living) says ...
This is such a step in the right direction for Whole Foods. Bravo!!!
05/06/2010 11:13:43 AM CDT
Get the WORD out! says ...
Knowing where your food comes from is so important to the human race. One day everyone will get in the the "know" and WFM is definitely getting the party started early. Thank you so much for making access available! Now open more stores in GA so we can access that grass-fed beef conveniently.
05/06/2010 8:56:54 PM CDT
a. says ...
thank you whole foods! i'm really glad to hear that not only did you make it a policy to offer grass-fed beef nationwide, but that you are also supporting these small farms with loans to help make their sustainable businesses a viable practice. hooray! now, if you can also make it a policy to offer pastured chickens and their eggs nationwide - then i would be simply CHUFFED! pastured chickens, and their eggs, are much healthier for us than chickens raised on grain - just like with cattle. eggs from pastured chickens have high amounts of vitamin A, along with tons of other nutrients. i hope this is something that y'all can do. thanks again! :-)
05/06/2010 11:26:39 PM CDT
Paul says ...
I hope someday there is a store near me in Indiana
05/07/2010 11:03:51 AM CDT
Alice Dahlgren says ...
We are thrilled you have made the decision to put a store in Oklahoma City! I will not darken the door step of Walmart. Grocery business here has been awful. Welcome to our neighborhood! We are only able to purchase grass-fed beef at specialty markets.
05/07/2010 2:31:05 PM CDT
screwdestiny says ...
One day I was watching a show on the Food Network, they were talking about steak, and they were showing the "wonderful marbling" that came from the graining of the cows. Ridiculous. That wonderful marbling is why people are dying young from obesity. Bravo, Whole Foods, for offering this much healthier option everywhere. Can't wait until I live near one of your stores again.
05/07/2010 11:00:49 PM CDT
Roxana_Gia says ...
I shop Whole Foods so that I won't have to keep up w/ studies like the "Effects on blood concentrations of certain serum fat-soluble vitamins of long-term feeding of dairy cows on a diet supplemented with clinoptilolite" or worry about whether my body can handle recombinant bovine somatotropin and recombinant bovine growth hormone...
05/09/2010 1:08:08 PM CDT
nick mclogic says ...
I only have one issue with this article. Cattle are not "designed" for anything, but they have evolved and thus are well adapted to feeding on grasses. I am a HUGE fan of the 5 step rating program Whole Foods started and grass fed beef is a step 4 here in DFW. Keep it up guys!
05/11/2010 10:17:18 AM CDT
Donna says ...
I am so excited about this - it's hard to find grass fed beef, now I know where to go without having to buy a whole cow.
05/12/2010 3:12:29 PM CDT
Donna says ...
Yes, I agree with the other poster. Please try and get pastured chickens and eggs in the store as well as the grass fed beef. I am just loving this store!
05/12/2010 3:17:25 PM CDT
Alfred Mendoza says ...
I love the impetus behind having all natural, grass fed cattle for our meat products. It's about time? I know I will do the greater part of my shopping at Whole Foods. The time has come where we need to clean up pur environment and what we put inside our bodies. Thank you Whole Foods so much. Al Mendoza, Boston, MA
05/12/2010 5:50:42 PM CDT
Melanie says ...
Can anyone tell me if the grass that is being fed to the cows is pesticide free.
05/12/2010 6:05:55 PM CDT
Bryan says ...
So happy about your commitment! Well done. I bet it was a lot of work developing all these relationships, but it will begin to transform the american landscape if more people have access to grassfed cattle rather than feedlot beef.
05/12/2010 6:08:46 PM CDT
Stephanie says ...
I am thrilled you're doing this. It's hard to get to a supermarket and a farmer's market every week. This saves me time. And while I don't eat meat more than once or twice a week, I like knowing I can get the good stuff when I want it. Thank you! Now if we could just get pastured chicken and pork at Whole foods...
05/12/2010 6:22:04 PM CDT
Stephanie says ...
One more comment on grass-fed beef: One of the commenters mentioned marbeling. Marbeling is about fat, and it's true that grass-fed beef are leaner. However, you can choose fattier cuts. I got some grass-fed short ribs the other day at Whole Foods -- slow braised them. They had a good amount of fat (and probably contained a good amount of CLA, too) and tasted wonderful.
05/12/2010 6:27:07 PM CDT
Pam says ...
This is excellent, that Whole Foods and these ranchers care enough to produce natural beef that doesn't involve feeding corn or other grains which are harmful to the cattle and potentially harmful to those who consume it. I hope this is the start of a trend and that other meats will increasingly be produced in this way. Having seen the movie "Food, Inc", it is my intention to never knowingly eat anything other than grass fed beef or organically produced pork, chicken and lamb. My friend in NH is deeply jealous of the Whole Foods stores that surround me here in CA, they don't have one in NH at all! Why?! There's plenty of money up there, get building!
05/12/2010 6:33:47 PM CDT
Chris says ...
This was very timely--my wife and I were just watching "Food, Inc." last night, which prominently highlights the difference between grass-fed and corn-fed beef, and we wanted to get more information on what goes into the meat that Whole Foods is selling. I'm glad to have the answers delivered to my inbox today!
05/12/2010 6:45:29 PM CDT
Mary T. Salmon says ...
Great article. I only eat grass-fed beef after tasting it a couple of year's ago. What a difference! We must support our local ranchers. There is not a big difference in price but what a huge difference in taste! Not to mention the medical benefits...
05/12/2010 7:26:12 PM CDT
Catherine Benedetto says ...
I would love to see other grass fed meats, also.
05/12/2010 7:57:18 PM CDT
DragonKat747 says ...
When I read this a few weeks ago I agreed wholeheartedly: "I was pleased to hear you speak of the importance of grass in both beef and milk production, and applaud your efforts to push the organic dairy industry to make grazing mandatory and reject the organic feedlot model. The story in beef is more complicated. I recognize the economic advantages of sourcing grass-fed beef from overseas; it is a commodity in New Zealand while still an artisanal product here. Yet Whole Foods’ commitment to developing an American grass-fed meat industry would have such a profound impact, both on the environment and the welfare of the animals, that I would urge you to take a broader view of the matter. I am not, contrary to what you might think, an absolutist on local food. I recognize that there are times and cases when supporting local agriculture in other countries is the best way to go; Slow Food calls it “virtuous globalization” when the power of a global market can be used to defend an endangered local food or food culture. But that’s not what’s happening in the case of grass-fed beef. To build a viable grass-fed beef industry in America would do so much for the land –not just remove the insult of chemicals and ruinous commodity crop production, but also actually restore the land to health. It would also do wonders for the health and happiness of millions of America cattle that now live in misery on feedlots, and encourage farmers to convert cropland back to grassland. I also believe that, by organizing a national supply chain based around regional differences in the season that grass-fed meat should ideally be harvested, Whole Foods could develop a 12-month national supply of fresh, high-quality domestic grass-fed meat. True, the meat would not always be local, but the local effect, as the source of it shifted from one region to another over the course of the year, would be profound. Whole Foods has the power and know-how to do things in this area no one else can do." - Michael Pollan And today I am *delighted* to see Whole Foods taking this HUGE step toward support of local food systems, and writing this GREAT article introducing the meat and the farmers to their customers. My applause and my loyalty - I'll be thrilled to buy grass-fed beef from Whole Foods.
05/12/2010 10:08:46 PM CDT
Sue says ...
I don't eat a lot of red meat and it's worth paying a little more for that occasional treat when you know it is more healthy. Great news.
05/12/2010 10:36:46 PM CDT

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