Dr. Mercola talks pastured meats and healthy fats at our holistic, integrated farm

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At White Oak Pastures, we have expertise in three areas: animal welfare, regenerative land management, and rural communities. As farmers, we aren’t experts in nutrition. When osteopathic physician and natural health advocate Dr. Joseph Mercola came to visit, we shared our knowledge of farming with him, and he shared his knowledge of nutrition with us. Here are a few of Dr. Mercola’s thoughts on the health benefits of grassfed and pasture-based food and farming.

What are some of the benefits of grassfed and pastured products that people might not have heard about?

One of the most important nutrient groups that you can eat is healthy fat. Fat from pastured animals is very healthy, and in my view, should be consumed in far larger quantities than it is now. Healthy fat is a clean fuel for your body with far less damaging free radical generation which contributes to premature disease and death. This appears to contradict conventional wisdom on fat, but the emerging evidence strongly supports this position.

Which products are you most excited about right now?

My current passion is using food as fuel to minimize the production of free radicals. This means eating a diet that is between 75-85% healthy fat. The challenge to do this is finding a wide variety of healthy fats to fill that role. I am really excited about tallow and lard as an addition to the fats I have already identified as a useful strategy to achieve this dietary goal.

What stands out to you about our production practices at White Oak Pastures?

It’s a holistic, integrated system that works synergistically to provide a near ideal primal environment to produce healthy animals that will in turn provide healthy food for us to eat. It’s a very impressive operation and I’ve never seen anything like it. It provides great hope that this system can be modeled by other motivated farmers to offer this type of high-quality food to people in other regions.

P.S. Check out our pastured pork lard, grassfed beef tallow, and the rest of our products in our online store!

Categories: Kitchen | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Dan Coady, nanomedical researcher to pastured poultry farmer

DSC_0048For six years, Dan Coady conducted research for a multinational technology corporation in California, until one day he decided to move to rural southwest Georgia to become a farmer. Today he leads the country’s largest pastured poultry operation, and we are lucky to have him.

Dan had found quite a bit of success as a scientist. He developed nearly 100 patented scientific processes and won the American Chemical Society’s Young Investigator award. But he began to believe there was a more meaningful way for him to utilize his skill sets and spend his time, producing healthy food for his family and community. He fully agrees with the famous Hippocrates quote, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Dan left the nanomedical research field and moved with his wife and their two young daughters to Bluffton. Together with his White Oak Pastures team, Dan now raises 60,000 broiler chickens, 12,000 laying hens, 8,200 turkeys, 7,600 ducks, 6,000 guinea fowl and 3,000 geese entirely on pasture and processed here on the farm.

As White Oak Pastures’ Poultry Manager, Dan’s PhD in Synthetic Organic Chemistry and his experience in research and development come in handy more often than you might think. He sees the farm as a puzzle, with the many facets of production, processing, and marketing as the pieces. He describes the poultry operation as its own puzzle, and he uses creative problem solving to find the best ways to rotate the birds, provide housing, and increase feed conversion, all while working within nature’s perfect system.

The slower pace of the farm lifestyle suits the Coady family well, too. The kids love riding in tractors and eating in our on-farm dining Pavilion. Right now their favorite meal is Chef Reid’s pastured poultry special, of course: a chicken breast stuffed with spicy Italian turkey sausage. The Coady family believes they made the right decision when they moved from California to White Oak Pastures, and we couldn’t agree more.

Categories: Staff Spotlight | Tags: , | 6 Comments

Unintended consequences: The resurgence of the bald eagle

All of us really revere the iconic North American predator species. We’ve got grizzly bears, timber wolves, cougars, and eagles. We name our sports teams and our Boy Scout troops after them, we see them on tee shirts, and they have one unfortunate thing in common: they are all endangered or threatened.

We often hear that loss of habitat is the reason these predator species are endangered, but after causing a resurgence of bald eagles in southwest Georgia, we have another theory…

Soon after we began raising pastured poultry, we started seeing bald eagles on the farm for the first time. The eagles ate dead chickens and thinned our flock of the weaker ones. By working with nature on our farm instead of against it, we had created an environment where not only our livestock thrives, but wildlife can thrive, too. In contrast, keeping food animals inside factories starves the wildlife that depends on it.

With few other food sources nearby and our pastured poultry operation growing, more and more bald eagles made White Oak Pastures their home. Eagles began aggressively killing large numbers of healthy chickens, and we could not keep up with the losses. Eagles are an isolationist species, and overpopulation leads to fighting, rapid spread of disease, and loss of the natural ability to hunt. The eagles became overpopulated to the point that we’ve enlisted Fish and Wildlife Services to work with us on deterring the eagles using non-lethal harassment methods, to return the population on our farm to a healthy number. 7 or 8 eagles on one farm is great, but 78 is too many.

We now believe part of the demise of the iconic predator species in our country is a function of confinement animal farming which doesn’t give nature a fair opportunity to do its job. We wonder how much of a resurgence of these threatened species we would see if more farmers let their food animals out of captivity and let Mother Nature’s natural selection process work.

(Photos by Backlight Photography)

Categories: Animal Welfare, Farm Life | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Good news: We bought 250 acres of worthless land

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It takes more than time to restore Georgia’s soil to the way it was before industrial farming practices added chemical fertilizers and pesticides and removed the biodiversity and nutrients. It takes us buying the land in the first place. Well, check that box, to the tune of 250 acres.

Our little experiment in the de-industrialization of agriculture is becoming less little all the time.

So what are we going to do with that 250 acres of degraded soil? Exactly what we’ve done with our other 1,500 acres: repair and fertilize the soil using century-old methods and the Serengeti Grazing Model of an unconfined, natural rotation of livestock. We recently moved a small number of our cattle onto the land to eat hay. They will urinate and defecate to feed the soil, and their hooves will break apart and aerate the land, preparing it for the planting of warm-season perennial grasses.

It will take years of good animal-land management to rebuild this eroded soil, but it’s an investment we know is important to continuing our commitment to regenerative animal agriculture.

Not surprisingly, most of the arable land in south Georgia is under someone else’s control. Some of it is conventional farming, some of it is in hunting reserves or timber farming. But we buy when we can buy. We lease when we can lease. We’re on a mission and we just got 250 acres closer to our goal.

Categories: Regenerative Agriculture | Tags: , , | 23 Comments

How to make grassfed beef bone broth

At White Oak Pastures, we take pride in using every part of the animals we process, and broths are a way to utilize the strong, nutrient-dense bones. Check out Chef Reid’s easy how-to video and instructions for making beef bone broth at home. Enjoy this broth by itself as a rich, nourishing supplement or add it to soups and sauces for added flavor and nutrition.

Ingredients

  • 10 pounds White Oak Pastures grassfed beef bones. In this recipe, we used canoe, knuckle, marrow, oxtail, and rib bones, but choose any combination that you’d like.
  • 2 large onions, quartered
  • 3 medium-sized carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 5 stalks of celery, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar

Preparation

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Place bones in a large, shallow roasting pan. Bake bones 30-45 minutes, or until well browned, turning at the 15-minute mark. Remove from oven.

Move bones into a large pot. Pour 1/2 cup water into the roasting pan and use a wooden spatula to scrape up any fond (crusty browned bits). Add the fond mixture to the pot, then add onions, carrots, celery, bay leaves, and vinegar. Add water to cover the mixture and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 24-48 hours.

Over a large heatproof bowl, strain broth through a fine-mesh sieve, or a colandar lined with cheesecloth or 2 layers of paper towels. Remove bones, vegetables and seasoning.

Chill broth, then lift off the fat. Store fat in the refrigerator for 1 month, or freeze for 6 months to a year. Store broth in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week, or freeze for 6 months to a year.

Categories: Kitchen | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Organic spring vegetables at White Oak Pastures

We just kicked off the Spring season of our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. Our Organic Farm Manager, Ryan Carnley, Assistant Manager, Mary Bruce, and our garden team are busy planting, harvesting, washing, packing, and delivering organic produce to our wonderful CSA members.

Here is how it works: we offer “shares” to the community, which consist of 6-8 unique produce offerings each week of the season. Members pay a fee at the beginning of the season in exchange for a weekly delivery of fresh vegetables, fruits, and nuts.

The arrangement is mutually dependent and mutually beneficial, which builds a lot of trust between our farmers and our members. Our CSA members’ support allows us to operate seasonally and year-round because we have a consistent customer base. As nature dictates the outcome of the growing season, our customers share the risk with us. We call them our CSA family because we experience the ups and downs of the seasons together.

The CSA program is unique in many ways. Our members get the opportunity to eat both locally and seasonally, learning about and experiencing the variety of produce that is available each week in Southern Georgia. Customers also get to know our farmers and ask questions, having face-to-face interactions each week on delivery day.

It’s not too late to sign up for the Spring CSA at a prorated rate. This season, a share might include the following items: kale or collard greens, carrots or beets, bunching onions, spinach or spring mix, swiss chard, broccoli, pac choy or tatsoi, and blackberries. Here in our garden, we love all of the seasons and we hope you will, too!

Categories: CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) | Tags: | 2 Comments

Our chickens of the woods

Chickens were born to scratch and peck, which is exactly what they do at White Oak Pastures. Our chickens are completely unrestricted, and they could walk to Atlanta if they wanted to. This lifestyle is ideal for them, but it makes our job a heck of a lot harder. We think it is worth it, and our customers do, too.

We utilize the Serengeti Rotational Grazing Model, grazing large ruminants, followed by small ruminants, followed by birds. Our poultry like to scratch through cow manure, which is one of the many benefits of having chickens in the pastures. They eat the bugs and redistribute the nutrients, instead of leaving them in piles. Our hens have the option to lay eggs in our mobile pastured poultry houses, or they can lay them anywhere else on the farm they choose.

We have learned that most of our biological diversity occurs in the “edge.” These days, many of our hens are gravitating toward the bushier, shadier parts of our pastures near the forest edges. Our Laying Hen Manager, Sam Humphrey, explains that domestic chicken breeds are descendants of the red junglefowl, whose natural habitat was the edges of forests where two biological systems are together teeming with life. Here, chickens have cover from predators, and there is a wide variety of leaf litter, seeds, and bugs for them to eat. It’s very natural for our hens to want to be there foraging, nesting, roosting in the limbs, and dust bathing in the dirt. None of these behaviors are possible on a factory farm, which produce and market those ever-so-popular eggs labeled “cage-free.” Our eggs have deep yellow and orange yolks, as opposed to the light yellowish-grey yolks of hens kept in confinement with poor diets. Ours also have a rich flavor and a great nutrient profile as a result of our hens’ own nutritious diet. 

Right now with the warm weather and lots of sunlight, our hens are laying about 5,500 eggs each day. Our egg crew is busy collecting eggs two to three times a day, seven days a week. For them, it’s like an Easter egg hunt every day at White Oak Pastures. Once the eggs are collected, they are taken to our candling, washing, and sorting room where they are prepared to be shipped to grocery stores, restaurants, and other distributors. Our eggs are also available for purchase in our online store to be shipped to you directly. We hope you enjoy our delicious, pasture laid eggs!

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Categories: Animal Welfare, Regenerative Agriculture | Tags: , | 2 Comments

New kids on the farm

The business that we run is the most simple business in the world. We own land, and we own animals. We spend our days doing the right things for both. The animals breed, have young, they grow, we slaughter them, we sell the meat and poultry for money that we use to pay our expenses, and it all starts again. It is very simple, but it is also remarkably complex. There are a lot of moving parts.

Some of the great joys in our work are the birthing seasons. Goats kid, rabbits kindle, hogs farrow, sheep lamb, cattle calve, poultry hatch. This is part of a cycle of birth, growth, death, and decay. Everything we do here is in support of that cycle.

Each spring we welcome new goat kids to our herd as they are born in our pastures. Our Small Ruminants Manager, Matthew Cantrell, ensures that they live a peaceful, healthy life, caring for them and watching over them along with his dogs, Oakley and Pancho.

We are excited to have goats on our farm, as goat is the most consumed meat in the world. We believe that our customers who are currently buying our beef, lamb, poultry and rabbit will also like our goat.

Please enjoy our photo gallery of our mama goats and their new kids, in their nursery in our pastures. This is the way we believe animals should be born and raised.

Categories: Animal Welfare | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Second Annual 5K Ruff Run

We had a blast this Saturday at our second annual 5K Ruff Run! Contestants were challenged by 14 obstacles throughout our pastures, while the two days of rain prior to the event added a whole other level of difficulty. You can do a mud run anywhere, but where else can you do an obstacle-filled race on a farm with 10 species of livestock looking on?

The event was organized by our Tourism Manager, Jodi Harris Benoit, one of the fifth-generation of Harrises on the farm. Jodi wanted to offer something different, as our guests often visit the farm more for the educational component. Fitness is important to many of our customers, and this was a chance to get outside in the spring weather, get muddy and have fun, while learning about where your food comes from at the same time.

Tim Hauber, our Construction and Maintenance Manager, used his architectural background to design and build obstacles one runner described as more difficult than a military training course. Some of the challenges included climbing walls, a barbed wire crawl, a frame of monkey bars, a tire climb, and finally a mountain of hay bales to scale before crossing the finish line.

Our farm animals got in on the action, too, with one of our hens laying an egg in the hay bale obstacle after the race!

Guests also enjoyed our after-run activities, including a mechanical bull, cowboy joust, cornhole, paintball, beer and music, while Chef Reid served up pastured and grassfed sandwiches from the White Oak Pastures food truck.

Thank you to our community for coming together for a really unique and fun event. We can’t wait to see y’all again next year!

Categories: Events, Rural Community | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Flavor of Georgia: Chef Reid’s pastured chorizo sausage

This week, White Oak Pastures’ Chef Reid was a finalist in the 10th Annual Flavor of Georgia contest hosted by the University of Georgia. Our pastured Chorizo Sausage was showcased in the Meat & Seafood category, and made it to the top three of 12 contestants. Products were judged on flavor, texture, ingredient profile, and how well the products represent Georgia.

Chef Reid is a graduate of the famed Le Cordon Bleu culinary school in Chicago. He joined the White Oak Pastures team almost three years ago, and continues to grow our on-farm dining Pavilion. It is Reid’s love and passion not just for food, but where it comes from, that inspires him to continually take pride in the way he prepares and preserves the season’s harvest.

We produce our Chorizo Sausage from pasture-raised hogs that freely roam our farm, rooting and wallowing in the mud, and never treated with steroids or antibiotics. Our hogs make wonderful pasture companions with our goats and sheep in our Serengeti Rotational Grazing Model.

At the event, we were honored to be among so many great farmers and food producers in the state. Even though we didn’t take home the top prize, we were thrilled to be a finalist showcasing the Flavor of Georgia. And, Chef Reid’s delicious Chorizo Sausage is the winner every day here on the farm!

Categories: Events, Staff Spotlight | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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