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?




vaughnm says ...
Hi Clark, Our grass-fed beef in Texas is supplied by the Grassfed Livestock Alliance. Their ranches have been audited to Global Animal Partnership 5 Step Animal Welfare Rating standards by 3rd party auditors and have been certified at Step 4. Learn more about the Global Animal Partnership at http://globalanimalpartnership.org/ and specifically about the Grassfed Livestock Alliance at: http://www.grassfedlivestockalliance.com/Grassfed_Livestock_Alliance/GLA_Home_Page.html.
05/14/2010 9:00:32 PM CDT
vaughnm says ...
Hi Millie, Sorry if our post was confusing. We only had room to highlight a few of the ranchers we work with in our grass-fed beef program. Rest assured we are working with many more ranchers across the country in many states. Although we currently do not have Florida grown grass-fed, that is not to say we will not in the future. We are always working on regional programs. Florida currently purchases grass-fed beef from White Oak Pastures in Georgia. I encourage you to check out their link. They are stupendous! http://www.whiteoakpastures.com/
05/15/2010 4:45:08 AM CDT
vaughnm says ...
@Beef boy The price varies somewhat by region or store but it’s generally a bit more expensive than grain-finished. In some regions, the grass-fed beef is also organic, which may affect the price as well.
05/14/2010 10:00:23 PM CDT
Tony says ...
Mmmmmmmmmmmm, beef. *turns on the grill*
05/06/2010 9:30:29 AM CDT
Sherry Schodts says ...
Would like to purchase non-chicken eggs. Duck eggs are good.
06/07/2010 12:19:39 PM CDT
richard cadena says ...
thank you for doing the good deed. over the last few months i have been searching for 100% grass fed/grass finished meats. i came onto your site to check if you sold it and here it is. i do most of my shopping at whole foods--for my meats/fish/cheese and trader joes for fruits/vegis. richard
05/23/2010 12:04:05 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
vaughnm says ...
@Ann Marie We've had standards in place to ensure the welfare of farm animals for almost 10 years. And because we believe in continuous improvement in everything we do, Whole Foods Market has chosen the Global Animal Partnership 5 Step Animal Welfare Rating as the animal welfare certification our producers must meet in order to sell meat to our company. At this point, there are Global Animal Partnership standards for beef cattle, broiler chickens and pig, and all the producers of those species must be certified by January 1, 2011. Each Step has characteristics that distinguish the way the animals were raised. With that labeling system, we will be providing a completely transparent program that will allow you to know EXACTLY how the animals were raised for the meat you are purchasing. For more complete information, go to http://globalanimalpartnership.org/.
05/14/2010 11:55:09 AM CDT
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
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
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
Kim says ...
I used to live in Humboldt County, CA and know Clint Victorine. Now I may be partial, but his beef is some of the most superb grass fed I ever had. Props to you Whole Foods for working with true independent ranchers through out the country.
05/22/2010 7:35:38 PM CDT
Barbara says ...
This is the way it should always be!!!
05/17/2010 6:21:32 AM CDT
vaughnm says ...
@Ali Check out our answers to Helen, Linda & Mary above. http://blog.wholefoodsmarket.com/2010/05/grass-fed-beef-2/#comment-46134 http://blog.wholefoodsmarket.com/2010/05/grass-fed-beef-2/#comment-46135
05/19/2010 1:00:23 PM 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
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
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
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