You may be familiar with pasture raised, certified organic Vital Farms Eggs. Vital Farms currently supplies eggs to almost all our stores, (just not in the Pacific Northwest). What you may not know is that Vital Farms has recently started supplying meat cases in the Southwest region with Step 4 pasture-raised chicken! How did it all begin? Jason Jones, co-owner of Vital Farms, explains: “We started providing eggs to Whole Foods about 2 or 3 years ago in the Midwest region. The success of the program quickly led to expansion into 10 of the 11 regions.
In talking with Whole Foods Market Global Meat Coordinator Theo Weening, we realized there was a need for pasture raised chicken in the Southwest region. We are based in Austin and it was a natural extension for us to begin raising meat chickens (also called broilers) for their stores in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana. We call them “Vital Farms Backyard Birds.”
For their Backyard Birds, Vital Farms uses a variety of standard and heritage chickens, including White Plymouth Rock, Silver White Wyandotte, Light Sussex, Delaware and Gold Naked Neck, along with two Cornish varieties. What Vital Farms likes most about these birds is their ability to take advantage of the outdoors. They roam about during the day, getting exercise and foraging on pasture. Like all birds at Vital Farms, they are free to live like birds. They are fed a vegetarian diet, meet our standard for no antibiotics, ever, and have no added hormones*. They are also processed by hand with only vinegar and water as a cleansing agent. *Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones when raising poultry
Vital Farms achieved a Global Animal Partnership 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating of Step 4 (Pasture Centered) for this program. “We were very pleased when Whole Foods committed to purchasing our birds – that commitment was huge for us.” Jason explains, “And to help us achieve the 5-Step Program, Anne Malleau (Asst. Global Meat Coordinator) and her team worked closely with us. We’re all very proud.”
Jason continues, “The regional meat coordinator, Steve Hellman, has been great. He’s really facilitated our relationship with the meat departments in stores and has spread the message about our program, our birds and the quality of our product. Overall, our relationship with Whole Foods is very natural. Our company philosophies are closely aligned, making for an open and transparent partnership. Together we are able to supply customers with the best quality chicken raised to the highest animal welfare standards, and that feels great!”
Want to learn more about Vital Farms? Check out their website and facebook page! If you shop at one of our stores in the Southwest, make sure you try a juicy and tender Vital Farms Backyard Bird and tell us what you think!
Editor’s Note: This blog was modified on 9/22/15 to update how we refer to our standards.