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

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.

 

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63 comments

Comments

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

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

John says …

Only humane for ALL animals to be treated like this . . .

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.

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.

MaggieFig says …

Do you have any grass fed beef?

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.

Vanessa Roth says …

Enjoyed reading the organic meat article for clarificartion

Diane says …

Are the organic meats same as grass fed

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!

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.

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!

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.

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

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

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.

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.

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!

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.

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...

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!!

Carly says …

Does whole foods sell any grass fed meat

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!

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!

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.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@JEN - All our pork, chicken, beef and turkey suppliers are required to meet the Global Animal Partnership’s 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating Program –and within this multi-tiered program, chicken, turkeys and pigs are required to have access to the outdoors (look for 'Step 3: Enhanced Outdoor Access' in the meat department at WFM). Most of our Step 3 farms raise chickens – and you are right its not as simple as leaving the doors open, the birds must have provisions in their outdoor environment, like shrubs and bushes, that encourage them to range and forage and actually use the outdoors.

Dixie Barnes says …

I am pursuing a healthy life style and want to be exposed to as much information as possible

Jeffrey S says …

The reason organic meat is more expensive than other meat is because of the cost to raise the animals. No growth hormones and without the use of antibiotics the yield of product is lower.

Noelle says …

The description is very specific regarding the raising of cattle, but there's no mention of guidelines involved with the processing of the beef. For example, does Whole Foods allow the common practice of treating ground beef with ammonia gas to be utilized in the processing of beef?

smk says …

In regards to the grass fed beef at whole foods...do we know if the grass or the land the cattle graze on is treated with pesticides or not? I know that nowadays grass needs lots of chemicals to grow. That is the reason I usually buy organic...even though it is not always grass fed but atleast I know that the cow ate well. I would like to have organic and grass fed...that would be optimal. Does whole foods do that?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@SMK - Organic grass-fed beef does exist but there are not a whole lot of vendors out there. Check with your local store to see if there is a vendor in the area that they can source this from if they don't already carry an option.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@NOELLE - 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.

Karis Cornell says …

I shop regularly at Whole Foods Market in Virginia Beach and I just want to know that the unlabeled chicken I buy there is chicken that is not fed genetically modified grains. Can I get a clear and decisive answer to that question? This particular site didn't make it completely clear?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@KARIS - Unless the chicken you are buying is certified organic, there is really no way of knowing if the animals are fed non-GMO feed due to the prevalence of the GMOs in the commodity grain market, and the limited availability of verified non-GMO feed. We encourage shoppers who are looking to avoid products from animals fed GMOs to choose organic meat and dairy products (since organic standards prohibit the intentional use of GMOs). The new GMO labeling for our stores will include meat, dairy and cheese to be labeled by 2018.

Jeremy Corlis says …

Hey there, I had a question about the organic poultry and the organic beef. Regarding the organic chicken, I notice that the above comment refers to USDA certified organic. The poultry i recently purchased was certified organic by CCOF. What's the difference? Also, with organic feed, does this include corn? Does CCOF support the tyson chicken model. With regard to the beef, on the 4 rating pasture centered, are these grass fed cows or are they pasture-until-corn cows? I'm just trying to get a better understanding. Thanks, Jeremy

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@JEREMY - Great questions. When we say, "We sell the highest quality natural and organic ingredients," organic means USDA certified organic. Any "organic" claim in our stores meets the National Organic Standards federal regulation. CCOF is one of 84 certifiers accredited by the USDA to certify to Organic standards. CCOF happens to be our Organic Retail certifier, but they also certify farms and processing facilities. That label claim on your poulty, "certified organic by CCOF" means USDA certified organic. On the step 4 beef, it depends on the program. We have some step 4 programs that are entirely grassfed—100%--and are labeled as “grassfed” at our stores. And we also have a couple of step 4 programs where they are on pasture and eat grass, but also have grain bunks in the pasture that they can feed from as well. The grain-fed, step 4 beef would not be labeled as grassfed at our stores. All of our step 4 beef are on pasture, have access to grasses and are NEVER in a feedlot.

Alison MacGregor says …

I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at the age of 14. I was thin but pretty much raised on microwaveable meals! Now having a family of my own I'm a little more conscious on what I give to my family and having recently developed severe allergies to pesticides I'm trying my best to buy organic. My first Whole Foods experience was when I was in California for a business trip and I fell in love with all the fruits I was able to eat again and meat that actually tasted like meat again I was hooked! I'm from the west island of Montreal, Quebec and there are very slim choices when it comes to organic grocery stores. At any local grocery store I will find a small section of very few fruit and vegetables. I hope Whole Foods considers a expanstion into the Quebec market as I know I will defiantly be a loyal customer.

elizabeth vandiver says …

WEll Ive read information for vegetarians who say that any meat eating is abusive and all these animals regardless of being organic or not and some who believe all organic meat is safe and free. Ive read some stuff lately that seems very reasonable to me. It says that if you buy organic meats and milks you have a 50 50 chance of getting animals who are not abused and organic meat is healthier for you . The animals who are organic automatically get treated a little bit better autimaticaly simply because they are healthier its better for them so even if you just buy organic meats you get at the grocery store at least you know the animals were treated more humane in that they led healthier lives even if theyre being abused. But if you want to be a hundred percent sure they are not being abused at all in any ways shape or form the best way is to go to local farms and ranches and also get stuff that says ranch raised and cage free too ranch raised is best. But I wanted to ask Dallas Whole Foods if what local farms and ranches they buy from, can I get the info on where their stuff is coming from so I can at least check out the info on them on the net?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@ELIZABETH - Since our products vary between stores, it is best to reach out to the store in DFW to see what vendors they carry. Regardless of the vendor, all of our meat must meet our Global Animal Partnership standards. You can read more about those standards at https://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/mission-values/animal-welfare.

SonnyCeCe says …

I understand your term organic, but I have allergies and wish to know if the animals are fed any corn or soy? Can you let me know about that. Other than that I think it all sounds great. But I really wanna feel better and the corn and soy issue is big for me. thanks

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@SONNYCECE - If meat is labeled organic, it does not limit their feed other than the feed must be certified organic as well. Unless a meat is labeled as grass fed, there is a good chance the feed contained corn or soy. Since our vendors vary between stores, check with your local store to see what options they have in stock.

Anne says …

Whole Foods is opening a store near to my home at Bayview and Broadway Avenues in Toronto. I can hardly wait . I shopped in your store when I lived in Burnaby B.C. My two sons and I would drive to your North Vancouver store every Saturday for lunch at your great buffet and then shop for healthy delicous food.The turkey breast was outstanding, hurry and open LOL

Michael says …

What percentage of your grass fed beef is raised in North America?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@MICHAEL - As a company we are decentralized so our buying is done at the regional level. Unfortunately we do not have a % company wide as to how many vendors are from North America. Each store should be able to let you know where their grass-fed beef comes from.

Dawn says …

@noelle - about the use of ammonia gas with ground meats - At Whole Foods Market, If you buy any plain ground meat which is ground fresh in the store every day, then you can be confident that it is not treated with anything in the grinding process. The meat is taken as it is received, trimmed if necessary of fat (and skin removed in the case of poultry), and then ground. Here's the meat, there's the grinder, in it goes, and voila! Ground meat! About as simple and straight forward as it gets!

Perla Manuel says …

Are your chickens fed any grains that contain soy? I have extreme allergies to soy, soybean and noticed after I eat chicken my stomach gets very bloated. I am doing a process of elimination. Thank you.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@PERLA - It is very possible that organic chicken is fed soy. The requirement is that the soy must be certified organic. Check with your local store to find out if they carry any vendors that do not use soy feed.

Rob says …

Are all beef products sold in Whole Foods free from antibiotics and added growth hormones?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@ROB - Yes. All of the meat, including all beef products, sold in our stores have no antibiotics or added hormones.

Pat says …

I read where you carry Beyond Meat. Is this true?

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