Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

White Oak Pastures

By Kate Medley, August 26, 2008  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Kate Medley

This blog post previously contained an outdated video about a supplier. We have removed the video to prevent confusion. We have always believed in and fought for the improvement of welfare for farm animals industry-wide, and all the pork, beef, chicken and turkey in our fresh meat cases comes from producers who have achieved certification to Global Animal Partnership’s 5-Step® Animal Welfare Rating system.

In their own words...

White Oak Pastures works in cooperation with nature to produce premium quality beef that is healthy, nutritious, and good to eat.

Will Harris is a fourth generation cattleman taking his family farm in a whole new direction. His 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. White Oak Pastures is a recipient of Whole Foods Market's Local Producer Loan Program. Through the Local Producer Loan Program, Whole Foods Market makes $10 million available annually for low-interest loans to small, local producers. Note: Our Farm to Market slide shows currently feature farmers and producers from our South and MidAtlantic Regions. We hope to expand to others in the future.

Editor’s Note: This blog was modified on 9/22/15 to update how we refer to our standards.

Category: Farm to Market, Meat, Local




Rick Burnes says ...
Guys, Beautiful slideshow. Real glad you're supporting folks like this, making media about it, and tweeting about it. One question: Can you setup up the slideshow so it's embeddable? I'd love to write about it and post the slideshow on my blog (www.rickburnes.com), as I would a YouTube video. Keep up the great work! Rick
08/26/2008 9:18:52 AM CDT
Meryl Steinberg says ...
Taste and health issues come second to my concern over humane treatment of animals. I believe it is important to keep animal consumption to a minimum in remembrance that another being is sacrificed for our benefit and because it is better for the planet. I'm pleased that WF supports humane farming. This kind of effort is at the heart of my loyalty to your store.
08/26/2008 9:22:37 AM CDT
hsiaw says ...
@Rick Burnes - Let me check with our masterful video folks and see what we can do. We'll get back to you shortly! :)
08/26/2008 9:31:21 AM CDT
Tom Wilson says ...
My wife has picked up another dieting book titled "Skinny B____". Chapter five's subject is the treatment of animals at the processing plants. After reading that chapter it almost would make anyone a vegetarian. I have read the Whole Food's program about concern and quality assurance in humane treatment of animals for market and I hope this quality assurance program can continue through out the processing procedures. If so, Whole Foods will definately have a loyal customer. I cannot fathom becoming a vegatarian, but my wife has almost become one overnight after reading about some of the reports of animal processors. Please keep up the good work Whole Foods. Thank you.
09/04/2008 4:15:51 PM CDT
L. Haley says ...
We see beautiful surroundings and a sincere narrative -- but the larger question is -- How does one, lovingly care for an animal it's entire life -- and then send it to slaughter?
09/19/2008 7:34:54 AM CDT
WILL HARRIS says ...
'L. Haley: We see beautiful surroundings and a sincere narrative — but the larger question is — How does one, lovingly care for an animal it’s entire life — and then send it to slaughter?' This is Will Harris speaking- thank you for asking, Ms. Haley. I have been asked this before, and folks deserve to have this question answered. When I first started meeting the folks that buy my beef, I did not know how to respond to this. My immediate answer was that it is what my folks have always done, it is how folks have fed their families for centuries, and it is what i am supposed to do. This is all true, but somehow it seemed flippant to me. It took a lot of soul searching for me to finally be able to express the feelings that are in my heart. The fact is that I love my herd as much as you love your companion animal. I have a dog that is my constant companion. But, I do not feel the same kind of love for the individual animal within the herd. If I lost my herd, I would grieve for it and I would never get over it. But this is not the way that I feel about the individual animal within the herd. In my mind the herd is a dynamic body. It is a river and not a lake. This said, we never let even one animal within the herd suffer if I can prevent it. I am their steward and they are my responsibility. This is probably a lot more than you wanted to know. Will Harris of White Oak Pastures.
09/19/2008 12:54:53 PM CDT
Joshua says ...
Thanks to everyone for the healthy discussion.
09/23/2008 4:31:48 PM CDT
Matt Evans says ...
Thank you for your eloquent description of the herd that you care for so passionately. I loved the metaphor of the river and it brought to light the whole of idea of the "circle of life". Humans' evolutionary patters show that we are an omnivorous creature, but our complex minds and our love for our fellow animals can sometimes outweigh our history and knowledge of our nature. I feel that your explanation of how you treat and consider your herd helps ease our minds when the love we feel for our fellow animals is threatened. Thanks WF for supporting local farmers like Mr. Harris
09/20/2008 11:26:59 PM CDT
CGillespie says ...
Humane treatment of animals seems to be a thing of the past. It is wonderful to know that there are still some who take pride in how they raise their beef. This is why I support Whole Foods. I know that no matter what I purchase that it is all natural with no additives. I wish everything was that way.
09/20/2008 6:48:42 AM CDT
Ann Marie says ...
I buy from Whole Foods because of the commitment to humane treatment of animals. I respect Mr. Harris' feelings and his sense of responsibility to his herd. My one question is: after the animals leave your ranch to go to slaughter, do you know if the method of slaughter is humane? Does your responsibility to your herd continue to that point?
03/18/2009 4:42:39 PM CDT
Kathleen w. says ...
I doubt my comments will be posted, but no meat is "humane". A living being is still be killed. No human needs to eat meat. GO VEGAN!
03/18/2009 4:46:25 PM CDT
WILL HARRIS says ...
This is Will Harris responding to Ann Marie- Thank you for respecting the relationship that I have with my herd. I am convinced that when man domesticates an animal he must accept the responsibility for it's welfare. Stewardship of the animal is necessitated when dominion is taken over the animal. All of my cattle are slaughtered on my ranch. They never leave. Last April we completed the construction of a small processing plant on our farm. I believe that it is the only farmer-owned, USDA-inspected, on-farm beef processing plant in the country. Our entire beef production program, from birth through slaughter, is handled by me, my family members, or my employees. We commissioned Dr. Temple Grandin's consulting company to design our animal handling and slaughter system for us. Our farm and plant are certified humane by humane farm animal care, animal welfare approved by animal welfare institute, and we are a step 4 level beef producer through whole foods animal compassion program. We are professional herdsmen. We do all that we know to do to show our cattle dignity and respect and give them compassionate care every day of their lives, including the day that they are slaughtered to become food for me, my family, and for my customers. I accept life style choices [vegan & vegetarian] that others make, and I ask that they be understanding of my choices. Respectfully, Will Harris White oak pastures Bluffton, ga
03/19/2009 7:12:45 PM CDT
Fran says ...
Thank you Will Harris for your compassionate and humane treatment of your cattle. Thank you too for coming to Harry's and speaking to everyone about your ranch, your practices, and your beef. How grateful I am that WF honors your practices. We don't shop anywhere else. Thank you WF!
04/20/2009 5:11:59 PM CDT
Jacqui B says ...
Thank you, Mr Harris, for answering these difficult questions honestly and openly. I am a vegetarian, and will never eat meat for many reasons, but I truly appreciate the fact that your animals are treated with respect from "birth to death" as you stated in one of your responses. Your farm should be held as a gold standard for all meat processors showing that there is no excuse for the brutal and inhumane manner in which most "food" animals are treated. Thank you.
07/03/2009 7:53:41 PM CDT
Tina Sasuga-Paludi says ...
Thank you Mr. Harris for your views on cattle ranching and the stewardship you have taken to heart. It is refreshing that in this modern age such traditional values of caring and pride of ownership can be clearly heard in your own voice via the Whole Food's market circle. Tina
09/25/2009 3:14:22 PM CDT
Lisa says ...
I have been a whole foods customer overnight. I have taken on a healthy balanced diet by reading and researching books and articles myself. I am very happy and grateful that we have a whole foods market as a option. Since reading a numerous amount of information packed articles about what goes behind the scenes into our food supply and the damaging diseased linked problems is udderly shocking and scary. It has proned me to be very conscientious of what I am putting in my mouth and what kind of food I buy. I support all organic farms and the nature of how they raise our food. I applaud those who do it and am thankful. There needs to be more awareness on this topic of the inhumane acts that GM (gentically modified) foods, and the antibiotic stuck animals. It's in humane to abuse God's creatures. There is other options than how today's world has become greedy in making our food supply. In fact since my new awareness, I want to take part in making a difference. I am currently thinking about becoming a nutritionist/dietician to make my role in all this. Thank you whole foods and organic farmers in all you do. -Lisa
04/26/2010 9:43:14 AM CDT
Antonio Torres says ...
Before I was completely unaware of where the meat that I consume came from. Though documentaries, talk shows and the internet I've been educated and made more aware of the inhumane treatment of cattle or other farm animals and the potential risks of such practices. It just makes me mad thinking of it, that is why I've made up my mind to buy only from cattleman and farmers that have set very high quality standards for the treatment of their animals, the quality of their product and that value and respect their consumers; such as your self. I hope it continues for many more generations to come. Antonio
08/21/2010 6:05:45 PM CDT
Jo Ann Long says ...
Just curious is your cattle 100% grass-only fed..No grain at all.... even in the winter or right before slaughter to get them up to weight. What do they eat in the winter? Just wondering.
09/02/2010 12:20:10 PM CDT
paig292 says ...
@Jo Ann This is from the White Oak Pastures website: "Our cattle are born in a free-range environment and allowed to graze tender pastures all of their lives. Supplemental feeding only occurs during periods when grasses are dormant and even then they continue to freely roam the open pastures. Almost all of the nourishment that goes to grow our cattle comes from mother's milk, growing grasses, and locally grown hay." Hope that answers your question. You can learn more about White Oak Pastures at: http://www.whiteoakpastures.com
09/02/2010 4:38:43 PM CDT
Millis mom says ...
This video reassured my children that we eat animals that are raised and harvested "nicely". They are young but already have concerns about animal consumption. We talk a lot in our household about eating meat that is from animals who are well treated, have good lives and are slaughtered in a low stress way so they do not suffer. We are locavores as much as possible, but thanks to Whole Foods and it's farm and rancher partners we are able to eat a wide variety of animal protein not available near us.
09/02/2010 7:28:23 PM CDT
Jane @ The Borrowed Abode says ...
Now this is what I'm talking about. That's how cows SHOULD be treated.
09/03/2010 7:29:09 AM CDT
Paula says ...
In an ideal world, we would all be vegan. But the reality is, people WILL continue to eat meat, whether we like it or not. So family farms like these are more preferable to cruel factory farms. Whole Foods is putting its money where its mouth is. The bigger question is: Can small farms like White Oak Pastures and others supported by Whole Foods sustain entire human populations? We need individuals who can solve this problem and create a country/world where family farms proliferate, and factory farms deteriorate.
09/05/2010 2:45:17 PM CDT
Megan says ...
Kudos Whole Foods and to White Oak Pastures! This should be the 'norm' on farms... not the exception. I'll be very happy to go to my Florida Whole Foods and purchase beef raised on this farm.
04/18/2012 9:51:54 PM CDT
Karen Cash says ...
As a new vegan I almost feel as though I'm missing a real treat. I have to say I fully support what you are doing as a 2nd best option for my meat eating friends and relatives. I wish you only as much success as you can continue to handle in this manner. I hope the business I try to gather for you will not increase your daily "kill" limit. I really appreciate that you have that. Keep making Ga proud and showing how it should be done!
06/02/2012 4:07:19 PM CDT
sal nooristani says ...
thank you for much for supporting farms that raise animals in a humane manner. My family and I buy from whole foods because their continued support of our local farmers. thank you Will Harris and to your family for serving with healthy foods all these years. thank you whole foods for connecting us to the Harris family farms.
02/24/2013 7:00:18 PM CST