Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

How Can Meat Be Organic? We'll Tell You.

By Frances Flower, June 20, 2013  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Frances Flower

ChickenWhile organic produce, and even organic dairy, often gets the glory, I thought it would be good to talk about what makes organic meat and poultry organic.

If you’ve been tempted to buy organic meat or poultry but you’re not sure what it means, read on! In order to be certified to the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) organic standards farms and ranches must follow a strict set of guidelines. A third-party certifier inspects these farms and ranches annually to ensure the organic standards are met.

Here are a few of the key requirements for organic poultry, cattle and pigs:

  • Must be raised organically on certified organic land
  • Must be fed certified organic feed
  • No antibiotics or added growth hormones are allowed*
  • Must have outdoor access

*Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones in raising pork and poultry.

The animals’ organic feed cannot contain animal by-products, antibiotics or genetically engineered grains and cannot be grown using persistent pesticides or chemical fertilizers.

CowsFor details about the National Organic Program and access to the organic regulations, visit the USDA website.

In addition to offering organic options, all the chicken, turkey, beef and pork sold at Whole Foods Market® (whether organic or not) are from animals raised without the use of antibiotics and added growth hormones*.

They’ve also been certified to the Global Animal Partnerships’ 5-Step™ Animal Welfare Rating Program. This program rates how pigs, chickens, cattle and turkey are raised for meat.

Next time you are in your local Whole Foods Market store, be sure to ask our butchers to point out our organic meat and poultry.

Have you tried organic meat? Why is it important to you?

Blog Updated on 2/19/2015.





Carol Favreau says ...
I'd like to ask why Organic Meat is more expensive when they are raised naturally? Just curious. You would think the organic meat would be more reasonable. I was raised on a farm when I was young and we did not feed our poultry or pigs any medication. I'm definately for Organic Meat, veggies, fruit all to be grown naturally. Thank you
06/26/2013 5:37:30 PM CDT
Mary Jackson says ...
Is your beef and chicken that is not organic GMO free/hybrid free? Thank you for responding. I would like to hear the detail of what the animals are fed and if there is any risk for them getting GMO grain or if the risk is small. Thank you so much. I really like and appreciate Whole Foods. Mary Jackson
06/26/2013 5:40:34 PM CDT
John says ...
Only humane for ALL animals to be treated like this . . .
06/26/2013 7:40:10 PM CDT
Heather Y says ...
It's worth the money, as it directly effects your body and health. What you nourish your body with is everything. Also, we all get angry and upset over the horrible photos of the harsh reality of factory farms, however most people don't realize they are funding that horrifying environment when they buy that meat. Organic means healthy, means the way things are naturally supposed to be. Animals are meant to be outside, free range, living creatures. I'll pay more for organic meat knowing the animals I am consuming were treated humanely and fed naturally.
06/26/2013 7:59:48 PM CDT
smurf says ...
"Access to the outdoors" can legally be interpretted as a tiny door, big enough for a single chicken to squeeze out of, in a warehouse holding thousands of chickens in very cramped quarters. These chickens are not eating their natural diet either. They are omnivoires, not vegetarians. They get no fresh air, no sunshine, they cannot move about and use their muscles to hunt and peck. Skip the Rocky and Rosie, this is how they are raised. Look for Pepper Ranch Poultry at Oliver's, or buy from the farmer's market. In the words of my favorite meme..."You think eating healthy organic food is expensive? Have you priced cancer lately?" We will pay one way or another....on good, healthy food, or in medical later in life.
06/26/2013 8:22:34 PM CDT
MaggieFig says ...
Do you have any grass fed beef?
06/26/2013 9:56:31 PM CDT
VN says ...
Is there any regulation about how animals are killed and butchered? I am, of course, concerned about how animals are raised; but I would also like guidelines so that I can be sure that animals I eat are killed humanely and compassionately.
06/26/2013 10:28:33 PM CDT
Vanessa Roth says ...
Enjoyed reading the organic meat article for clarificartion
06/26/2013 11:17:15 PM CDT
Diane says ...
Are the organic meats same as grass fed
06/27/2013 6:35:30 AM CDT
Jen Mara says ...
I have heard that "outdoor access" can mean that they just leave the door open but the livestock is all still inside and cannot graze. Is that true? And is there a difference between access and grass-fed? Thanks!
06/27/2013 9:09:34 AM CDT
Aimee says ...
Unfortunately, just because the meat is organic doesn't mean the animal was grass-fed. Organic grain can be fed to the animal and it is still considered organic even though grass-fed meat is much healthier for the animal and the human who eats it.
06/27/2013 10:29:47 AM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@MAGGIEFIG - While our products vary between stores, most locations should have a grass fed beef option. Call your local store to find out for sure!
06/27/2013 1:07:29 PM CDT
Elena Frank says ...
I recently did some research on organic meat and was surprised to find that not all organic meat comes from grass fed cattle. Is this your understanding of organic? I was told organic (for meat) merely meant the cattle was fed organic feed and was treated humanely.
06/27/2013 2:20:58 PM CDT
mercedes dieguez says ...
i belive totally in all the product you sell i love and every month i go pinecrest whole food market but sincerily if i could i buy all there because i know this market have the best natural products i have health problems and tath is the reason i prefer buy all that i can in whole food market
06/27/2013 8:58:01 PM CDT
snejana nihtianova says ...
killing animals is wrong and I believe that there is nothing organic in this process....the animal will be killed this is so sad
07/01/2013 1:27:52 PM CDT
DeerFriend says ...
Sadly and conveniently certain aspects of the animal life is ignored EVEN when it is CERTIFIED ORGANIC. For example, naturally, cows will seek shade and choose their pasture habits according to the climate, however, it is INHUMANE that the only outdoor access they are allowed is to a treeless field with scorching temperatures and zero shade. Many times the animals suffer because the distance to the only water source is far, yet all these situations occur because it is the CHEAPEST way for the farmer to achieve the organic status and sell meat at a much higher price. Many times I doubt they even care about their animals. Money is behind their decisions….. Has anyone even considered the way they transport cows to be butcher in metal cages put on trucks that drive in miserable conditions (triple digits temps) for long hours or days… is that humane???? 'SMURF', thank you for your comment! Snejana Nihtia Nova, I also agree with you… It is so sad and I am grateful to be a vegetarian.
07/01/2013 3:57:13 PM CDT
Diane says ...
Is it possible that organic meat is from animals that are not pastured? I figure, unless it states the meat is from pastured or grass fed animals, that it is not...and probably fed only non GMO corn or soy.
07/01/2013 3:58:26 PM CDT
Diane says ...
Surprised you don't carry grass fed pork...and only one pastured chicken product which is not in stock at times. Wish you would offer Organic rotisserie chickens! PLEASE!
07/01/2013 4:01:17 PM CDT
Brenda Osborne says ...
After watching a news program about The World Trade Organization and viewing some footage about pigs and the heartbreaking and inhumane way they are treated, I decided to research Organic Foods. The difference in the way the animals were raised was amazing. I viewed some videos of cattle, pigs and poultry and how they are raised on a website from Whole Foods. I will try my best to purchase meats, in the future, that are certified organic. I owe this to myself and my granddaughters. Thank you to the people who spend their lives raising quality animals for food and in the process, treating the animals with common sense and kindness.
07/06/2013 9:08:49 AM CDT
Laura Hirschfeld says ...
It's very important to me eat and to feed my family organic meat - pastured, as much as possible. Pastured meat has more and higher quality nutrients, especially compared to meat from animals that have been fed commercial feed. As I learn more and more about this topic, I am convinced that the "unhealthy meat" that causes inflammation, high cholesterol, and other harm to people is only the factory farmed meat and that pastured meat is completely different when we ingest it. I ditto whoever mentioned pastured pork! Or at least organic - it's nearly impossible to find except at farmers' markets. ALSO milk from pastured cows. I remember a few years back there was press about some of the organic milk companies pushing to change the requirements of the organic label to allow for some nonorganic feed, if the price of organic feed was too high for them. This was when Walmart started carrying organic milk, and there wasn't enough supply to meet their tremendous demand. Does anyone know if this is still the case? There is a brand of organic milk I have been avoiding since then...
07/06/2013 8:06:32 PM CDT
Cam Fraser says ...
ever since working in the Mill Valley store in 1995 I search out Whole Foods nationwide for their healthy approach to wellness on all levels! Always quality produce, dairy, meat and breads combined with friendly, happy employees assures me that this is a company that cares about people and the environment! Stopped in today for a sandwich and grabbed some Sushi for dinner! Keep up the good work Team Framingham!!
07/09/2013 1:58:20 PM CDT
Carly says ...
Does whole foods sell any grass fed meat
07/12/2013 8:26:18 PM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@CARLY - Most of our locations will carry a grass fed beef option, but our vendors/products can vary. Check with your local store to find out what they have in stock!
07/15/2013 4:21:35 PM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@MARY - In March, Whole Foods announced that by 2018 all our products will be labeled to indicate whether they contain GMOs. Our meat team is currently working on full GMO transparency with all our suppliers. Organic meat is already non-GMO and we’re working with our non-organic partners too to get labeling in place. In fact, last month, we had our first non-organic supplier get non-GMO verified!
07/19/2013 4:34:43 PM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@VN - At Whole Foods, we require all our processing plants to have annual animal welfare and food safety audits. These welfare standards are based on the American Meat Institute’s guidelines and audit guide written by world-renowned animal welfare expert Dr Temple Grandin.
07/19/2013 4:35:29 PM CDT