The many dogs of White Oak Pastures

The internet loves dogs, and so do we. Dogs play several vital roles in the organism that is White Oak Pastures, as companions, livestock guardians, and herding dogs. We couldn’t operate our farm without them. Here’s to the many dogs of White Oak Pastures and all the ways they contribute, in loving memory of our most loyal friend, Ox.

Companion dogs
If you’ve ever visited our farm, surely you were greeted by this cast of characters when you arrived. They’re our very own welcoming committee, and they love tagging along during farm tours and gathering with visitors in our on-farm dining pavilion. Their family tree looks like a southern family reunion. Meet Cud, Regal, OJ, and Roxi.

Livestock guardian dogs
Livestock guardian dogs have been bred for thousands of years to sense danger and protect livestock from predators, and we have enormous gratitude for their role. But all dogs don’t get treated the same on a farm. If you’re not very careful with guardian dog puppies, they will bond to the person who’s feeding and playing with them instead of bonding with the species you want them to guard. To avoid this, we focus on keeping puppies in close proximity to the species they are supposed to protect. We keep them fed and watered, but show very little social attention, which isn’t easy when they’re this cute!

Herding dogs
Used for moving animals in a controlled manner, you want herding dogs to bond to the herdsman or woman, so the dogs can specifically follow their directions and do their bidding. These dogs are both companions and tireless workers that are capable of performing the work of several people. Like livestock guardian dogs, their instinctual relationship with livestock is one that has evolved over thousands of years.

Our dogs don’t mind working hard all day, knowing a never-ending feast of meat and organs fresh from our processing abattoirs awaits them. Our dogs eat ground beef, ground chicken, ground pork, and anything else they find on the ground. They also enjoy the pet chews we make out of everything from chicken feet to cattle noses, and even hides, as part of our commitment to following a zero-waste model. Whether a companion, guardian, or herding dog, living on a farm is a pretty good gig, and we are grateful for all of them.

 

Categories: Animal Welfare, Regenerative Land Management | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Bringing a ghost town back to life

Today, there are only two businesses in the town of Bluffton, GA: a post office and a seasonal peanut elevator. The only thing you can buy in Bluffton is a stamp, and the only thing you can sell is a truckload of peanuts. However, this won’t be the case for long. We’re on a mission to revive our little ghost town, building by building.

The industrialization of agriculture has not been good for the economic well-being of rural America. All across the country, small farming communities like Bluffton have fallen into oblivion as agriculture has become commoditized and centralized. If we can pull this off, Bluffton will be a thriving little town that sunk into oblivion and was returned to being a thriving little town through regenerative agriculture.

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Panoramic view of present day Pine and Church Streets

We are in the midst of reconstructing Bluffton’s 175-year-old general store, last owned by Mr. Herman Bass in the 1970s. This store was a cornerstone of the community back when the town was thriving, but for the past 40 years it sat abandoned, acting as a time capsule for general stores past.

We found a lot of cool slice-of-life artifacts inside the old store: canned goods and soda bottles, tools, and stacks of historical records. In order to work on the foundation of the building, we took up part of the sidewalk that had been poured over 75 years ago. Underneath, we found a single-shot, breech loading 12-gauge shotgun which surely has a fascinating story behind it. Our favorite piece of history is the hand print and signatures of Will’s mother, Eloise, and aunt Allene, in the concrete across the street. They were left when this concrete was poured in the 1930s.

We’ve been busy planning and rebuilding, and we’ll open Bluffton’s general store the weekend of October 15th as we celebrate White Oak Pastures’ 150th year. We’re proud that now that we’ve put the artisanal labor back in agriculture, our little town can again support its own store. Sustainable farming, the same girl that brought Bluffton to the party, is now bringing it back. We’re excited to continue serving our community and to offer an expanded selection for our customers. Y’all come and see us!

Categories: Rural Community | 25 Comments

Pastured Poultry Week is a-comin’ to Georgia! Make your reservations now.

PPW 2016Every week is Pastured Poultry Week at White Oak Pastures, but we love partnering with chefs to really get the word out. On July 11-18, chefs in Atlanta, Savannah, and Brunswick will feature pastured poultry on their menus to celebrate humanely and sustainably raised pastured poultry.

A lot of people are learning about the benefits of grassfed beef, but awareness of pastured poultry lags behind. That’s why we need your help spreading the word about Pastured Poultry Week.

According to Compassion in World Farming, the founder and sponsor of the event, the vast majority of the 9 billion chickens raised for food in the U.S. are raised in confinement, in overcrowded conditions where the birds can’t express their instinctive behaviors. These chickens are bred to grow so quickly that they suffer from lameness and strain on their hearts and lungs.

At White Oak Pastures, we are proud to raise a slow-growing chicken breed that takes twice as long to reach market weight, and our birds spend their entire lives on pasture, free to roam, scratch, peck, and dustbathe. Our pastured chickens are certified by Global Animal Partnership at Step 5+, Animal Welfare Approved, Certified Humane, and verified by the Non-GMO Project.

We will have pastured chicken, guinea, goose and turkey available for Pastured Poultry Week. Support the chefs who support White Oak Pastures by making your reservations now. Our pasture raised poultry will be featured at the following restaurants, in addition to those who may be purchasing our pastured poultry through a distributor like US Foods, Sysco, Buckhead Beef, or Turnip Truck:

Gunshow, TAP, Sway at Hyatt Regency, Farm Burger, Kaleidoscope, Miller Union, Cooks & Soldiers, Emory Hospital, and Seed Kitchen and Bar.

Check out the Southeastern Sustainable Livestock Coalition’s website to see the entire list of participating restaurants. Please tell your friends and family, and help make Pastured Poultry Week 2016 a big success.

Categories: Animal Welfare | Tags: | Leave a comment

Grassfed goat is back in stock + lemon herb goat meatball recipe

Recently on our blog we’ve written about the power of browsing and land clearing through small ruminant animals. Meanwhile, grassfed goat has been out of stock in our online store for a while. We’ve been able to enjoy having our goats on the farm, but haven’t been able to share their goodness with you. Today we’re excited to have grassfed goat back in stock for our online shoppers, and to share Chef Reid’s delicious lemon herb goat meatball recipe!

Goat is the most widely consumed meat in the world, but we have less experience eating it here in the U.S. The tender, flavorful protein tastes similar to beef, but is a bit sweeter and slightly earthy. A great way to introduce goat to people for the first time is by making familiar foods like meatballs. This recipe is very easy to make, and takes just 15 minutes. Give our grassfed goat a try and let us know what you think!

Ingredients
1 pound White Oak Pastures ground goat
Handful of parsley, finely chopped
Handful of green onions, finely chopped
Handful of rosemary, finely chopped
1 egg
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 tbsp. breadcrumbs
Juice of half a lemon
Dash of salt and pepper

Preparation
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Add all ingredients to a bowl and mix by hand. Form mixture into approximately 2 ounce meatballs and place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake at 425 degrees for 7 minutes.

Categories: Kitchen | Tags: | 3 Comments

We’ve got guts. Lots and lots of guts.

“In nature there is no waste.” -Dr. George Washington Carver

A byproduct of our red meat abattoir is a lot of intestines and guts. It’s not as much waste as there would be in an industrial plant that processes up to 100 times more animals than we do, but it’s still a lot. Most people would throw all those intestines away. We’re full-circle at White Oak Pastures, so we feed ‘em to black soldier fly larvae, which our poultry devour, and then fertilize our land with their feces. Win win win win win!

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We breed native black soldier flies inside an old grain silo that stored corn for the cattle before we transitioned to grassfed. The flies lay their eggs here, and then we move the eggs into large grey tubs where they hatch. Interesting fact: adult black soldier flies don’t eat, or even have functioning mouths; they spend their short 5-8 day lifespan searching for a mate and reproducing.

Their larvae, however, eat any and all organic material. We take the intestines from our abattoir and feed them to the black soldier fly larvae (see the larvae in action here). They eat and grow, and when they’re ready to pupate, they self-harvest by crawling up the ramps on the sides of the tub and dropping into a bucket.

The larvae serve two really important purposes: eating up that organic material from our red meat abattoir, and producing a protein- and fat-rich feed source that we use to supplement the diets of our pastured poultry. Today’s chickens evolved from jungle fowl in Southeastern Asia, and they are naturally omnivorous, hunting and foraging for bugs, grubs, and even small reptiles and mammals. We strive to emulate nature at White Oak Pastures, and with our black soldier fly program we go to great lengths to provide our poultry a very natural feed supplement.

They say the early bird gets the worm, not the corn and soy mix. Mother Nature has some really cool ways of doing things, when we work with her.

Categories: Animal Welfare, Regenerative Land Management | Tags: , , , | 13 Comments

A simple matter of life and death

cow

Most people don’t like to think about the slaughter and processing of food animals, in favor of the magical leap from pasture to plate. But when you feel the way we do about our animals and you interact with them on a daily basis, you think about it a lot. In fact, how we process our animals gets to the core of what we’re about, and what we’re not.

We’re not industrial commodity livestock production. We’re focused on the relationship we have with our animals; the ones born on our land, grazed on our lush pastures, grassfed and grown into the naturally healthy animals they were intended to be.

Given half a chance, nature does her job extremely well. Working with nature, we give our animals what we believe is the best life possible – which includes honoring them with a humane and dignified death.

Our red meat abattoir is one of only two on-farm USDA-inspected processing facilities in the nation. Situated in one of the pastures our cows have roamed their entire lives, there’s no stressful transportation issue. Their hooves never touch concrete until their last step.

The abattoir design is by Temple Grandin, a renowned expert on humane animal handling, and was designed to keep our animals at ease. For instance, the structure of the walkways minimize shadows because shadows frighten cows. Our abattoir is Animal Welfare Approved, an accreditation that reflects the highest animal welfare standards. This is important and good to know because when you choose your food, you’re also choosing how the animals are treated.

At White Oak Pastures, the compassionate treatment of animals doesn’t end with the end of their lives.

Categories: Animal Welfare | 3 Comments

How to roast a whole pastured chicken or guinea like a pro

Whole roasted chickenWhite Oak Pastures’ chickens and guineas live unconfined on pasture, hunting, pecking, scratching, and dust bathing. This leads to stronger, healthier, and in our opinion, tastier birds. It also means these birds use their muscles, and we need to take this into consideration when cooking a pasture raised animal. Apply some of the same principles we use when preparing grassfed beef, such as marinating or seasoning one to two days in advance to help tenderize those more active muscle fibers.

One of the easiest ways to cook a chicken or guinea is by slow roasting it. Cooking poultry with the bone in adds more flavor and nutrition to the meat and the broth you have left. We recommend the following recipe when roasting our pastured chickens and guineas.

Ingredients

1 White Oak Pastures small, medium or large chicken, or guinea
1 large onion – large chop
3 carrots – large chop
4 celery stalks – large chop
1 bay leaf
1 cup water
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup kosher salt
1 tbsp black pepper
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp chili powder
½ tsp white pepper
1 tsp onion powder
¼ tsp allspice
2 tbsp dried oregano


Preparation

Place the onion, carrot celery, bay leaf and chicken or guinea in a roasting pan deep enough to cover with foil or a lid if using a Dutch oven or cast iron. Mix all spices and herbs together (kosher salt through oregano) in a bowl. You may have more than you need, but this is a good all-purpose seasoning to keep on hand. Pour the olive oil over the chicken and then rub the seasoning over the bird, making sure to get it under the skin and in the cavity so the flavors can penetrate the meat.

At this point, if you can let it marinate for about a day, it will help tenderize the bird as the salt begins to break down tougher muscle fibers. If you don’t have a day, just let it sit out covered at room temperature for about an hour before you put it in the oven.

Preheat oven to 325F. Add the 1 cup of water to the roasting pan. Cover with a lid or foil and place in middle rack of your oven. Roast a small chicken for 90-120 minutes; a medium chicken or a guinea for 140 minutes; and a large chicken for 140-170 minutes. Remove lid or foil. Caution: there will be hot steam, so be careful when removing the lid. Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes. Once the bird has cooled enough to handle, remove the meat and use in your favorite chicken salad recipe or anything else you’d like. Make sure you save the stock from the pan, as it’s a great base for soup and is highly nutritious.

Categories: Kitchen | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Q&A with Lisa Brown, White Oak Pastures’ Poultry Plant Manager

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We are excited to introduce you to a special member of the White Oak Pastures family, Lisa Brown. Lisa started working with us in 2012, when we were still beginning to learn the poultry business. She started out in the processing side of our on-farm poultry abattoir as a feather plucker, and then took the initiative to learn all aspects of the plant. Four years later, Lisa is our Poultry Plant Manager, leading the day-to-day operations and overseeing our 10 artisan butchers in our abattoir. We are proud to continue learning and growing together with Lisa.

Q: You carry a lot of responsibility, being the one to ensure our birds have a humane, dignified death. What does that mean to you?

A: Animal welfare is very important, so when it comes to processing the birds, we do it in a clean and organized order. We take pride in treating our animals with respect.

Q: What is the most satisfying part of your job?

A: At the end of the shift each day because I know we got the job done.

Q: What was your most embarrassing moment at work?

A: One day at work, I went to the dining Pavilion to get a cup of coffee while I was on my break. As I got my coffee, I began to walk back to my office, when all of a sudden I slid across some gravel rocks and couldn’t stop myself. I fell directly on my behind, but I still was holding onto my cup of coffee!

Q: What is your favorite meal to cook at home?

A: I love the pastured chicken breast and yellow rice. I marinate the chicken breast in some chicken broth. I let it sit overnight and the next day, then I take it out and bake it. I also boil my rice with butter.

Q: What is your favorite hobby outside of work?

A: Fishing with my family.

Q: Choose one word to describe White Oak Pastures.

A: Amazing

Categories: Staff Spotlight | Tags: , | 1 Comment

How to buy grassfed and pastured meat in bulk

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It used to be very common to buy a whole, half, or quarter of an animal from a farmer you know and trust, and then enjoy having a convenient, steady supply of protein in the freezer. This tradition of buying meat in bulk is making a comeback, and we’d like to make the process a little less intimidating and mysterious, and encourage you to give it a try.

One of the advantages of buying in bulk is the cost savings. Ethically-raised protein costs more to produce than factory farmed protein, but we are able to charge less for whole animals because we save money on packaging, marketing, and distribution. Here is how the cost breaks down: a whole cow is about 360 pounds of meat. At $2,799 for the cow, the cost comes out to $7.78 per pound, which is less than the cost of a pound of ground beef purchased by itself. When you buy the whole cow, you also get filets, ribeyes, strip steaks and more, all for $7.78 per pound.

Buying in bulk will also allow you to develop a deeper connection with your food and where it comes from. When you arrange to pick up your order on the farm, it is a great opportunity to schedule a tour to see where your animal was raised and processed. You’ll honor that animal every time you eat it, and take pride in learning how to prepare cuts of meat you may not have tried before.

You can purchase a quarter of a cow, an eighth of a cow, and a side (half) of lamb through our online store, where we also list which cuts come with each option. We will ship it to you in a cooler with dry ice, or you can pick up your order on the farm.

Whole and half cows and hogs can be purchased by filling out our order form and emailing or faxing it back to us. You have the option to choose the specifications of how the animal is butchered, and you can also choose to include the bones, fat, or offal. Shipping a whole or half cow or hog would be quite expensive, so we ask you to pick it up on the farm. Once you get it home, a whole cow will require a chest freezer totaling 14 cu. ft.; a side of beef or a whole hog should easily fit into a 7 cu. ft. model; and a side of pork will need about 3.5 cu. ft. of freezer space.

If you have any questions we haven’t answered here, please contact us at 229-641-2081 or info@whiteoakpastures.com.

Categories: Kitchen | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

We’ve been called names

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.

 

AGA logo

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.”

 

AWA logo

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.

 

savory-network

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.

 

GAP logo

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.

 

NON-GMO LOGO

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.

 

Organic logo

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.

 

chlogo2

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.

 

CNG logo

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.

Categories: Animal Welfare, CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), Regenerative Land Management | 6 Comments

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