This month I’ve been blogging about different suppliers that Whole Foods Market partners with. In celebration of Earth Month and Easter, I wanted to write about a unique meat supplier: Strauss Free Raised®, who supply us with veal. And this is no ordinary veal! Strauss Free Raised® calves are on pasture with their mothers for their entire lives – a very different story than for conventionally-raised veal calves. So how did this unique veal program begin? Lori Dunn, Executive Director of Sales and Marketing for Strauss Free Raised explains, “Randy and Tim are third generation owners of Strauss. Inspired by the personal passion of Randy's wife, Diane, they recognized a dilemma with the way that veal calves were being raised and wanted to do something different by raising them naturally, on mother’s milk and always free to roam on pasture. We felt that Whole Foods Market and Strauss Free Raised both had a similar mindset when it came to veal and we started talking with their Global Meat Coordinator – Theo Weening – about developing a Free Raised program with Limousin cattle. The first pound of Free Raised veal was sold in Whole Foods Market about four years ago and we were proud that Whole Foods was our very first customer!” “Our relationship with Whole Foods is symbiotic. We have a lot of similarities on farm ethics, standards and the quality of meat that customers should be able to purchase. Whole Foods has a lot of requirements and it can be challenging, but it’s made us a better company as a result. And you guys care! You care about doing what’s right for long-term agriculture – more retailers need to do what you do. By supporting our 42 independent family farmers, I know Whole Foods and Strauss are helping drive progress in the right direction.” “A lot of thought has gone into developing the Free Raised program to make sure it is an authentic recreation of the way veal calves had been pasture raised for centuries. Randy and Tim chose Limousin cattle because they are well-suited to life on pasture, have good mothering ability, and grow well – essential elements to raising calves. And from a meat quality perspective, not only does this breed have ties to the original French veal culinary roots, but the veal is surprisingly lean, yet is amazingly tender and juicy.” Don’t be surprised by the rich, pink color of Strauss veal compared to the standard white veal from conventionally-raised calves. Pink is a sign of higher levels of iron in the calves’ diet. Strauss also raises their cattle with no grains, no added hormones and no antibiotics, ever. Strauss also took their program to the next level and got USDA label approval for the Free Raised claim, which is a huge achievement! Today, Strauss Free Raised supplies many Whole Foods Market stores (except for those in the Mid-Atlantic, North Atlantic and North East regions). Spring celebrations are a great time to give veal a try. Thanks to Strauss, you can add veal to your menu with peace of mind. Not sure how to cook veal? Strauss has a lot of suggestions on their website. Ask for Strauss Free Raised veal at your local store’s meat counter and tell us what you think! And watch out for our veal and wine promotion in June!