Over the years, we have accumulated a number of animal welfare and land stewardship certifications. Will likes to say he’s like a Boy Scout collecting merit badges. We feel that we owe it to our customers to meet the standards of all of these organizations, and pay their verifiers to audit us to their standards. This is because so much of our product is sold online and through distributors to consumers who live a long way from White Oak Pastures. Farmers who sell their products directly to consumers may not need these third-party verifications, since they know their customers personally.
We are convinced that the best verification is to visit the farm in person. This is why we built on-farm lodging, an on-farm restaurant, and we host farm tours and events. Y’all come and see us. In the meantime, here is a quick rundown of our certifications and labels.
What is certified: Our cattle, goats, and sheep
In 1995, we decided the right thing to do for our cattle herd would be to transition to a grassfed pastured program. We later added additional ruminant species, and now our cattle, goats and sheep are certified grassfed by the American Grassfed Association (AGA). AGA defines grassfed animals as “those that have eaten nothing but grass and forage from weaning to harvest, have not been raised in confinement, and have never been fed antibiotics or growth hormones. In addition, all AGA-Certified Producers are American family farms and their livestock is born and raised in the U.S.”
What is certified: Our cattle, chickens, and eggs
Animal Welfare Approved (AWA) is a food label for meat and dairy products that come from farm animals raised outdoors on pasture. Our cattle, chickens, and eggs are certified by AWA, as well as our on-farm, USDA-inspected red meat and poultry abattoirs. As much as we are committed to providing our animals with a peaceful, healthy life, we are committed to offering them a humane and dignified death. Our facilities, designed by Dr. Temple Grandin, are focused on keeping the animals at ease.
What is certified: Our land
The Savory Institute promotes large-scale restoration of the world’s grasslands through holistic management. We have been named a Savory Institute Training Hub, an honor given to 17 organizations across the globe to provide education and support on regenerative farming to other land managers. We believe that sustainability isn’t enough; agriculture has to be regenerative. Practicing the Serengeti Grazing Model, we rotate complimentary animal species side-by-side through our pastures. All species naturally fertilize the land, and our soil is a living organic medium that teems with life.
What is certified: Our cattle, pigs, chickens, and turkeys
Global Animal Partnership’s tiered rating system recognizes advanced methods of allowing animals to express their behavior. White Oak Pastures is certified at the highest level, Step 5+, indicating our animals are raised on pasture, with no physical alterations, and they spend their entire lives on the same farm. We were one of the first farms in the U.S. to receive GAP certification for beef production, participating in the pilot program in 2010.
What is certified: Our poultry, eggs, pigs, and rabbits
Most of the corn and soybeans grown in the U.S. are produced using genetically-modified seeds, which means a majority of poultry, pig, and rabbit feed includes GMOs. For years we struggled to find a feed mill that could consistently supply enough non-GMO feed for our farm. In May 2016, we became verified by the Non-GMO Project, a non-profit organization offering third party verification and labeling for non-GMO food and products.
What is certified: Our land and vegetables, fruits, and nuts
The federal government oversees the USDA Organic program, certifying products produced without synthetic ingredients, synthetic pesticides, growth hormones, or genetic engineering. All of our land is certified organic, except that land which we have recently leased or purchased to transition to organic pasture. White Oak Pastures is proud to be the largest certified organic farm in Georgia. Using the same methods Will’s great-grandfather used a century-and-a-half ago, we proactively support nature’s food chain using only sun, soil, and rain to grow organic sweet grasses for our animals to eat.
What is certified: Our cattle, goats, sheep, pigs, chickens, and eggs
Certified Humane is the label of Humane Farm Animal Care, an international non-profit certification organization that works to improve the lives of farm animals by driving consumer demand for kinder and more responsible farm animal practices. Third party auditors ensure farms meet standards that ensure animals are raised in an environment where they can engage in natural, innate behaviors. For example, chickens are able to flap their wings and dust bathe, and pigs have the space to move around and root.
What is certified: Our vegetables, fruits and nuts, bees, and goats and sheep
Certified Naturally Grown (CNG) offers peer-reviewed certification to farmers and beekeepers producing food for their local communities by working in harmony with nature, without relying on synthetic chemicals or GMOs. The main difference between CNG and USDA Organic is the certification model, which relies on peer inspections, transparency, and direct relationships. The livestock standards are based on the USDA Organic standards, but additionally require access to pasture and feed grown according to CNG standards.