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Grass-Fed Beef Now Nationwide

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 PasturesBluffton, 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?

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139 comments

Comments

says …

Hi Clark, Our grass-fed beef in Texas is supplied by the Grassfed Livestock Alliance. Their ranches have been audited to Global Animal Partnership 5 Step Animal Welfare Rating standards by 3rd party auditors and have been certified at Step 4. Learn more about the Global Animal Partnership at http://globalanimalpartnership.org/ and specifically about the Grassfed Livestock Alliance at: http://www.grassfedlivestockalliance.com/Grassfed_Livestock_Alliance/GLA_Home_Page.html.

says …

Hi Millie, Sorry if our post was confusing. We only had room to highlight a few of the ranchers we work with in our grass-fed beef program. Rest assured we are working with many more ranchers across the country in many states. Although we currently do not have Florida grown grass-fed, that is not to say we will not in the future. We are always working on regional programs. Florida currently purchases grass-fed beef from White Oak Pastures in Georgia. I encourage you to check out their link. They are stupendous! http://www.whiteoakpastures.com/

says …

@Beef boy The price varies somewhat by region or store but it’s generally a bit more expensive than grain-finished. In some regions, the grass-fed beef is also organic, which may affect the price as well.

Tony says …

Mmmmmmmmmmmm, beef. *turns on the grill*

Sherry Schodts says …

Would like to purchase non-chicken eggs. Duck eggs are good.

richard cadena says …

thank you for doing the good deed. over the last few months i have been searching for 100% grass fed/grass finished meats. i came onto your site to check if you sold it and here it is. i do most of my shopping at whole foods--for my meats/fish/cheese and trader joes for fruits/vegis. richard

Roxana_Gia says …

I shop Whole Foods so that I won't have to keep up w/ studies like the "Effects on blood concentrations of certain serum fat-soluble vitamins of long-term feeding of dairy cows on a diet supplemented with clinoptilolite" or worry about whether my body can handle recombinant bovine somatotropin and recombinant bovine growth hormone...

nick mclogic says …

I only have one issue with this article. Cattle are not "designed" for anything, but they have evolved and thus are well adapted to feeding on grasses. I am a HUGE fan of the 5 step rating program Whole Foods started and grass fed beef is a step 4 here in DFW. Keep it up guys!

says …

@Ann Marie We've had standards in place to ensure the welfare of farm animals for almost 10 years. And because we believe in continuous improvement in everything we do, Whole Foods Market has chosen the Global Animal Partnership 5 Step Animal Welfare Rating as the animal welfare certification our producers must meet in order to sell meat to our company. At this point, there are Global Animal Partnership standards for beef cattle, broiler chickens and pig, and all the producers of those species must be certified by January 1, 2011. Each Step has characteristics that distinguish the way the animals were raised. With that labeling system, we will be providing a completely transparent program that will allow you to know EXACTLY how the animals were raised for the meat you are purchasing. For more complete information, go to http://globalanimalpartnership.org/.

FairTrade says …

Great move WFM. And let's hope that one day all the beef sold in America is grass-fed.

Food Makes Fun Fuel says …

Hip hip hooray! I always get my grass fed ground beef when I'm at the whole foods near my campus, and I was worried they might not have that back home. I love the innitiative you guys put in to things!

Get the WORD out! says …

Knowing where your food comes from is so important to the human race. One day everyone will get in the the "know" and WFM is definitely getting the party started early. Thank you so much for making access available! Now open more stores in GA so we can access that grass-fed beef conveniently.

Alice Dahlgren says …

We are thrilled you have made the decision to put a store in Oklahoma City! I will not darken the door step of Walmart. Grocery business here has been awful. Welcome to our neighborhood! We are only able to purchase grass-fed beef at specialty markets.

Kim says …

I used to live in Humboldt County, CA and know Clint Victorine. Now I may be partial, but his beef is some of the most superb grass fed I ever had. Props to you Whole Foods for working with true independent ranchers through out the country.

Barbara says …

This is the way it should always be!!!

says …

@Ali Check out our answers to Helen, Linda & Mary above. http://blog.wholefoodsmarket.com/2010/05/grass-fed-beef-2/#comment-46134 http://blog.wholefoodsmarket.com/2010/05/grass-fed-beef-2/#comment-46135

jennifer says …

This news is yet another reason I will always shop at Whole Foods. Thank you so much for all you do to help America be a healthier, most natural place.

Carrie (Love Healthy Living) says …

This is such a step in the right direction for Whole Foods. Bravo!!!

a. says …

thank you whole foods! i'm really glad to hear that not only did you make it a policy to offer grass-fed beef nationwide, but that you are also supporting these small farms with loans to help make their sustainable businesses a viable practice. hooray! now, if you can also make it a policy to offer pastured chickens and their eggs nationwide - then i would be simply CHUFFED! pastured chickens, and their eggs, are much healthier for us than chickens raised on grain - just like with cattle. eggs from pastured chickens have high amounts of vitamin A, along with tons of other nutrients. i hope this is something that y'all can do. thanks again! :-)

Paul says …

I hope someday there is a store near me in Indiana

screwdestiny says …

One day I was watching a show on the Food Network, they were talking about steak, and they were showing the "wonderful marbling" that came from the graining of the cows. Ridiculous. That wonderful marbling is why people are dying young from obesity. Bravo, Whole Foods, for offering this much healthier option everywhere. Can't wait until I live near one of your stores again.

Donna says …

I am so excited about this - it's hard to find grass fed beef, now I know where to go without having to buy a whole cow.

Donna says …

Yes, I agree with the other poster. Please try and get pastured chickens and eggs in the store as well as the grass fed beef. I am just loving this store!

Alfred Mendoza says …

I love the impetus behind having all natural, grass fed cattle for our meat products. It's about time? I know I will do the greater part of my shopping at Whole Foods. The time has come where we need to clean up pur environment and what we put inside our bodies. Thank you Whole Foods so much. Al Mendoza, Boston, MA

Melanie says …

Can anyone tell me if the grass that is being fed to the cows is pesticide free.

Bryan says …

So happy about your commitment! Well done. I bet it was a lot of work developing all these relationships, but it will begin to transform the american landscape if more people have access to grassfed cattle rather than feedlot beef.

Stephanie says …

I am thrilled you're doing this. It's hard to get to a supermarket and a farmer's market every week. This saves me time. And while I don't eat meat more than once or twice a week, I like knowing I can get the good stuff when I want it. Thank you! Now if we could just get pastured chicken and pork at Whole foods...

Stephanie says …

One more comment on grass-fed beef: One of the commenters mentioned marbeling. Marbeling is about fat, and it's true that grass-fed beef are leaner. However, you can choose fattier cuts. I got some grass-fed short ribs the other day at Whole Foods -- slow braised them. They had a good amount of fat (and probably contained a good amount of CLA, too) and tasted wonderful.

Pam says …

This is excellent, that Whole Foods and these ranchers care enough to produce natural beef that doesn't involve feeding corn or other grains which are harmful to the cattle and potentially harmful to those who consume it. I hope this is the start of a trend and that other meats will increasingly be produced in this way. Having seen the movie "Food, Inc", it is my intention to never knowingly eat anything other than grass fed beef or organically produced pork, chicken and lamb. My friend in NH is deeply jealous of the Whole Foods stores that surround me here in CA, they don't have one in NH at all! Why?! There's plenty of money up there, get building!

Chris says …

This was very timely--my wife and I were just watching "Food, Inc." last night, which prominently highlights the difference between grass-fed and corn-fed beef, and we wanted to get more information on what goes into the meat that Whole Foods is selling. I'm glad to have the answers delivered to my inbox today!

Mary T. Salmon says …

Great article. I only eat grass-fed beef after tasting it a couple of year's ago. What a difference! We must support our local ranchers. There is not a big difference in price but what a huge difference in taste! Not to mention the medical benefits...

Catherine Benedetto says …

I would love to see other grass fed meats, also.

DragonKat747 says …

When I read this a few weeks ago I agreed wholeheartedly: "I was pleased to hear you speak of the importance of grass in both beef and milk production, and applaud your efforts to push the organic dairy industry to make grazing mandatory and reject the organic feedlot model. The story in beef is more complicated. I recognize the economic advantages of sourcing grass-fed beef from overseas; it is a commodity in New Zealand while still an artisanal product here. Yet Whole Foods’ commitment to developing an American grass-fed meat industry would have such a profound impact, both on the environment and the welfare of the animals, that I would urge you to take a broader view of the matter. I am not, contrary to what you might think, an absolutist on local food. I recognize that there are times and cases when supporting local agriculture in other countries is the best way to go; Slow Food calls it “virtuous globalization” when the power of a global market can be used to defend an endangered local food or food culture. But that’s not what’s happening in the case of grass-fed beef. To build a viable grass-fed beef industry in America would do so much for the land –not just remove the insult of chemicals and ruinous commodity crop production, but also actually restore the land to health. It would also do wonders for the health and happiness of millions of America cattle that now live in misery on feedlots, and encourage farmers to convert cropland back to grassland. I also believe that, by organizing a national supply chain based around regional differences in the season that grass-fed meat should ideally be harvested, Whole Foods could develop a 12-month national supply of fresh, high-quality domestic grass-fed meat. True, the meat would not always be local, but the local effect, as the source of it shifted from one region to another over the course of the year, would be profound. Whole Foods has the power and know-how to do things in this area no one else can do." - Michael Pollan And today I am *delighted* to see Whole Foods taking this HUGE step toward support of local food systems, and writing this GREAT article introducing the meat and the farmers to their customers. My applause and my loyalty - I'll be thrilled to buy grass-fed beef from Whole Foods.

Sue says …

I don't eat a lot of red meat and it's worth paying a little more for that occasional treat when you know it is more healthy. Great news.

Hristo says …

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Joan says …

After watching Food Inc. Grass feed beef is the only beef I'll eat. When it goes on sale like it did this past week at WF you have to act quickly because it sells out fast! I went back just 2 days later to buy more and their supply was almost gone. Shows you how popular it has become. BTW Willshire Organic Grass fed hot dogs...yummm!

cynthia debenedetti says …

Hello, I'm glad to hear this from WHS because 4 weeks ago when I asked the Redwood City, Ca butchers if they sold grass fed beef "never-ever" (which means never fed corn grain) they told me they didn't have ANY such thing....only beef from cattle who were grass fed and fed corn/grain the last 6 weeks of it's life. So I bought my beef from a local produce retailer who DID sell beef from cattle who were/are grass fed and NEVER fed corn in their lives. And they are not contained-they can roam the pasture land in northern california. I love your stores and am glad to hear this.

Jan says …

I thought I didn't like hamburgers until I made some with your grass-fed beef. Oh my! Delicious!

Dave says …

Melanie said: Can anyone tell me if the grass that is being fed to the cows is pesticide free. I would also like to know whether the grass they've been eating is organic. Do the cows eat it in a pasture, or do they sometimes eat pre-clipped grass somewhere else?

says …

@Melanie & Dave In many cases, our grass-fed beef is organic. In order to be certified organic, the producer is prohibited from using any toxic and persistent pesticides. In general it’s not as common to use pesticides intensively on pastures as it is on crops, if it is used at all.

says …

@Dave You also asked whether the animals eat clipped grass. The answer is that they might. Although grass farmers plant strategically to try to have viable forage available at all times of year, there are some times when that is not possible…as well, there could be weather anomalies that mess up their best-laid plans. For instance, there was a terrifically serious drought in Texas last spring, summer and fall. At times when the pastures are not providing all the nutrients the animals need, they might be given hay that was cut during the peak of the season or haylage, which is grass that is cut, partially dried and ensiled (a process of anaerobic fermentation to preserve the grasses) to exclude air, or plastic-wrapped in large bales So, yes…they might indeed eat grass that has been dried or otherwise preserved at a later, which are provided in racks on pasture.

Helen says …

I am also interested in where this grass fed beef is slaughtered and processed before being shipped to your stores. Food Inc, illustrated very clearly how few slaughterhouses there are now in the USA and that both organic, grass fed, and grain fed cattle can be slaughtered in the same facility, allowing for cross contamination.

briggid larson says …

yipee, I am not a big beef eater,but my family is I like knowing the cattle was humanely raised which is better for everyone,the cows and the environment too

Peter Burton says …

The composition of grass-fed beef is different from grain-fed, according to "Omnivore's Dilemma." Significant amounts of heart-healthy Omega 3s are found in grass-fed beef. In contrast, Omega 3s levels in grain-fed beef are de minimis. Another benefit is unhealthy Omega 6 fats are much lower in grass-fed beef than in grain-fed, where they are high. Also, cattle raised on grass naturally use their famous three-chambered digestive tract to breakdown foods and eliminate bacteria, toxins and viruses. Grain feed wreaks havoc with cattle digestive tracts, causing high levels of acid that leads to sickness, liver failure and enables illnesses, such as Mad Cow Disease and E Coli, to thrive.

Doll Wheeler says …

Soooooo Happy to hear the great news!!!!! Me and my Family to only buy Grass-Fed, Since watching the Documentary "Food.,Inc." And also want to buy free range chicken, You Have those? Thanks Doll

says …

@Doll To make the claim of “free range” or “free roaming”, producers must demonstrate to the Agency (FSIS) that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside. That can mean a lot of different things, so we don’t use that specific terminology in our stores, although some of our producers have applied for that label claim and use it on their packaging. To cut through the confusion, Whole Foods Market has chosen the Global Animal Partnership 5 Step Animal Welfare Rating as the animal welfare certification our producers will meet in order to sell meat to our company. Global Animal Partnership standards for broiler chickens requires that ALL birds have access to the outdoors to merit a Step 3 certification. Each Step has characteristics that distinguish the way the animals were raised. With that labeling system, we will be providing a completely transparent program that will allow you to know EXACTLY how the animals were raised for the meat you are purchasing. Because the auditing process takes time to complete, because all the producers in a group must be audited before a Step rating is assigned, it will take time for this program to be fully rolled out in all our regions. But our goal is to have all beef, pork and chicken Step rated by January, 2011, so keep your eye on the cases. The step rated meat will begin to show up this summer or fall.

Nathania says …

I've been going to my local farmers market for grass-fed beef but I'm really excited that I can get it at Whole Foods along with my other groceries! Thanks Whole Foods for helping to make grass-fed beef more mainstream. Hopefully more shops will catch on.

Linda Vaccaro says …

5/13/10 1. I would like to know if Colorado stores are buying from grass fed Colorado ranches? If so, is the processing plant in Co. or are we trucking this beef to and from other states, perhaps across the country? 2. I would like to know if the meat is processed separately from corn fed beef? i.e. Do they have a separate processing plant for grass fed beef or are they grinding up grass fed meat with the same machine that processes corn fed beef? 3. The cpws are primarily fed by grass but is there any other feed that they are supplemented with? The questions are very important to me and would, very much, appreciate accurate answers. I'm happy for us regarding the grass fed cows but really happy for the cows. Thank you. Linda Vaccaro

says …

@Helen & Linda For a plant to be certified organic, the organic animals must go through the system first each day, or the entire system must be cleaned and sanitized if non-organic animals are processed first. Many of our grass-fed producers are also certified organic, so their animals are required to be separated. It’s part of their organic certification. In general, animals are slaughtered in groups from the same source…so the animals that were delivered on a truck are kept together. Most grass-fed beef is produced by small groups of ranchers, or by independent ranchers and slaughtered at smaller local plants. That being said, plants are not designated specifically for grass-fed. They follow strict processing facility and cross-contamination guidelines, but do process more than just grass-fed.

says …

@Linda Regarding the CO stores, currently they buy from both CO ranches and CA ranches. However, starting at the end of July, all of the grass-fed will be raised on CO ranches and processed at CO facilities. Also, Whole Foods Market works with grass-fed producers who raise their animals entirely on grass, legumes and herbaceous plants. They may receive nutritional supplements, but not other forms of feed. See the response to Melanie and Dave about the forms of preserved grass that animals may be fed.

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