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 Pastures — Bluffton, 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?