Reviving An Old Tradition: Holiday Goose

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Our geese are free range and have 250 acres of pasture and tree coverage to forage in and explore. We raise Embden geese, a weather-hearty, robust, pure white breed. Geese are herbivores and their beak design makes them the best grazing poultry species.

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We supplement our birds’ diet with non-GMO feed which in turns adds organic material such as available nitrogen back into the soil in the form of manure. Our geese live full, free range lives while contributing to our farm’s regenerative agriculture model.

You won’t find goose in your everyday supermarket, but we are proud to say that we can send a pasture-raised, non-GMO goose right to your doorstep. Goose is a traditional dish across the globe and Christmas goose was the much-anticipated holiday dish in Europe for centuries.

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Tis the season for this hearty, traditional dish. Our chef Reid Harrison has prepared a simple and delicious recipe on how to prepare this rich, delicious bird. Watch our video here to see how easy it is to prepare a pasture-raised holiday goose for your next cold weather get-together.  Our recipe is as follows:

Citrus Five Spice Christmas Goose 

Ingredients

1 10lb White Oak Pastures Goose

2 Oranges

1 Lemon

2 TBL Chinese five-spice powder

2 TBL Kosher Salt

Black Pepper

Small handful each of parsley, thyme and sage sprigs

Optional

3 TBL clear honey

1 TBL thyme leaf

Method

Calculate the cooking time (approximately 10-12 minutes per pund). If the goose is ready-trussed, then loosen the string and pull out the legs and wings a little – this helps the bird cook better. Check the inside of the bird and remove any giblets or pads of fat. Using the tip of a sharp knife, lightly score the breast and leg skin in a crisscross. This helps the fat to render down quicker while roasting.

Zest the lemons and limes. Mix with Kosher salt, the five-spice powder and pepper to taste. Season the cavity of the goose generously with salt, then rub the citrus mix into the skin and sprinkle some inside the cavity. Place the zested fruit and the herb sprigs inside the bird and set aside for at least 15 mins. Do this a day ahead to allow the flavors to really penetrate into the goose for the best flavor, and lighten your load on cooking day.

Preheat oven to 450̊ F. Place goose on a wire rack in a roasting pan. Roast the goose for 15 minutes at 450̊ F then turn the heat down to 350̊ F and allow to cook for about 45-50minutes. Drizzle with the honey and sprinkle with thyme leaves. Finish roasting for another 30-45minutes until deep golden brown and crispy (cover the goose with foil if it is starting to brown too much).

Every 30 mins or so, baste the bird with the pan juices, then pour off the fat through a sieve into a large heatproof bowl. You will end up with about a quart of luscious fat – save this for the potatoes and any other veg you might want to cook. At the end of the cooking time, leave to rest for at least 20 mins, covered loosely with foil. The bird will not go cold, but will be moist and much easier to carve.

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We’re Into Leather

We’re into leather! The White Oak Pastures Leather Department was created to utilize our cowhides in a way that is continuous with our zero-waste protocol.

The journey of our cowhides to leather is a labor intensive one. Hides are removed by hand in our red meat abattoir, then there are three avenues for our hides once they are removed from the carcass. Hides are either A.) used by our leather department, B.) hand crafted on our farm into pet chews or C.) sold to a pretannery in Kentucky.

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We learned the hard way, but now, we only save cowhides during the winter months because this time of year is cool enough to preserve them. At the end of each day, the hides are transported to an on-farm barn where they are salted and stored. We create a hide-salt lasagna layering hide, salt, hide, salt. We use about 200 pounds of salt per hide. The hides are stored here for 4-6 weeks. After this, we shake the excess salt off the hides, fold them onto pallets and load them onto our trailer which we personally drive to a multi-generational family-owned tannery in Sebring, FL: Sebring Custom Tanning. About 6 months later, after the hides are tanned and ready for pick up, we make the drive back down to FL and bring them back to White Oak Pastures. We have a great relationship with the tannery and they do a wonderful job with our hair-on and hair-off cattle hides. The product returned to us is a Full Grain Leather, which means the suede and the top grain layers remain together to create a quality product and feel.

Our leather craftsman, Alena, is self-taught in the art of measuring, cutting, dying and sewing leather into beautiful finished products. We create patterns that we like and want to wear or carry, and in return, our customers appreciate these same patterns as well. Although we use the same design every time, each hide is different, and as such there are no two identical items in our store. The spine of each hide is thickest, this is where the sturdiest leather comes from. We use this section for our bigger bags (totes), coasters, mouse pads, belts, dog collars and keychains. The edges of the hide (the belly) are thinnest and most flexible and we use this section for our smaller bags, new cross-body bags, bracelets, earrings, and wallets.

Come see us in our newly opened White Oak Pastures General Store. In the far corner, tucked away, you’ll find our leather workshop.

With the holidays quickly approaching, keep in mind our leather products make great gifts and are available in our online store. Look forward to new patterns, color palates and craftsmanship in 2017!

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Teenagers With Nose Rings

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We are trying a new type of weaning this year: wean rings. This is a plastic ring that clips inside the calf’s nose like a clip-on earring. We think wean rings are the least stressful and most natural way to wean.  When the calf tries to nurse its mother, the ring’s spiky points make it uncomfortable for the mamma to nurse her calf. She’ll then initiate the weaning process. These rings may look drastic, but they are safe and cannot hurt the mamma cow. Our calves are still able to have all the physical contact that they want with their mammas. They can still nuzzle, follow around, and get licked on by their mammas.

Deer, bison, and other non-domesticated ruminants will kick their babies away from the teat when the time comes for them to be weaned. Humans have domesticated cattle to the point where this instinctual behavior was lost and now it is necessary for the stockman to intervene. Weaning is a very stressful time for the calf and the cow. Both are clearly bonded to each other. However, weaning must occur.

We wean calves around 7-9 months of age. The mammas are pregnant with their second calf at this point.  At this time in their lives, calves are steady eating grass and drinking water, so mamma’s milk is just a treat. It is crucial that our calves fully transfer to grass before their sibling is born. The mamma cow needs to spend all of her nutrition growing the fetus calf, as opposed to making milk in her last trimester for the older calf.

Once the younger calf is born, the older calf would out-compete it if both calves were to suckle. Additionally, this would impede the younger calf from getting adequate amounts of colostrum. Colostrum is the first milk produced by a mamma cow during the first few days after birth before her body switches to making normal milk. Colostrum is a unique kind of milk rich in antibodies, fats, and proteins. Calves do not passively receive immune support from their mothers across the placenta as humans do. They must get their antibodies from colostrum. It is imperative to calves’ health that they drink colostrum in the first few hours of life. The wean rings ensure our young calves have a healthy start to life while allowing the older calves a low-stress introduction to their adult diet of grass.

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We are excited about our new system. We look out at our pasture and see a bunch of teenagers with nose rings and we couldn’t be happier. We’re respecting the mother-calf bond and the herd-mentality of our animals while still ensuring the health of future generations of cattle.

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Categories: Animal Welfare, Uncategorized | Tags: | 2 Comments

How to cook a perfect pasture-raised turkey

We are grateful for the opportunity to provide you and your loved ones with a delicious pastured turkey for this special time of the year. Cooking a whole pasture-raised bird can be intimidating, and we want you to feel well-prepared to cook our turkeys this holiday season.

Our turkeys are athletes. They spend their entire lives roaming our lush pastures, hunting, pecking, scratching, and dustbathing as nature intended. Because of their diet and exercise, our birds are lean animals. When cooking them, keep in mind they have less fat than commodity turkeys. We have found that cooking with a wet, slow heat yields a more tender turkey dish.

Check out our recipe and tips to cook the perfect pastured turkey for your holiday meal, as well as our five-part video tutorial where Chef Reid walks you through the process step-by-step.

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Ingredients

White Oak Pastures pastured turkey
White Oak Pastures pastured poultry bone broth or water
Olive oil
1 large onion
1 carrot
4 stalks celery
1 bay leaf

Butter Mixture Ingredients
10 oz butter (about 2.5 sticks) at room temp
4 tsp fresh rosemary
4 tsp fresh sage
1 tbsp fresh oregano
4 lemons (2 for juicing and zesting and 2 whole lemons)
3 fresh garlic cloves
¼ tsp allspice
Salt to taste
Black pepper to taste

Preparation

Receiving and Defrosting
Your turkey will arrive frozen or very cold to the touch. Allow 3-4 days to thaw your turkey slowly in the refrigerator. After the turkey thaws, remove the bag of giblets from the body cavity and set them aside. These are great for making gravy. There may be paper between the turkey breasts to soak up any juice; remove this, too.

Herb Butter Marinade
Combine butter mixture ingredients in a mixing bowl. Loosen the turkey’s skin with your hands, and rub the butter mixture over the whole turkey, under and over the skin. Tip: Use a piping bag to get the mixture under the skin more easily. If you have time, cover and refrigerate the bird overnight to allow the flavors time to penetrate the meat. We’ve found you don’t need to brine pastured birds because they hold moisture and flavor better than conventional birds.

Making Mirepox
Roughly chop celery, carrot, and onion and place them in the bottom of a roasting pan along with bone broth or water and a bay leaf. Use just enough liquid to cover the vegetables. This mixture will add flavor to the bird and keep it moist. Set aside a few pieces of onion for roasting inside the cavity of the turkey.

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Ready to cook
Remove turkey from refrigerator 30-60 minutes before cooking, and preheat oven to 325F. Place turkey on a roasting rack, breast up, and set in the roasting pan over the mirepox. Loosely place 2-4 lemon halves and a few pieces of onion inside the cavity. Truss the bird loosely with butcher’s twine and drizzle turkey skin with olive oil. Place the pan into the oven and cook, basting the bird with pan juices every 10-15 minutes. Remove the bird once the internal temperature of the thickest part of the thigh registers 160F (approximately 8-10 minutes per pound). Please note that our pastured turkeys cook more quickly than conventional birds. Lastly, it is important to allow the turkey to rest 15-20 minutes before carving so you don’t lose all the delicious juices.

Photos by Laura Mortelliti. 

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What’s in your Jeep, Will Harris?

We’ve all seen blogs or magazines featuring the contents of movie stars’ handbags, with sunglasses, lipsticks, and fancy electronics on display. Here at White Oak Pastures, we are similarly fascinated by what’s inside Will Harris’ Jeep. When you hop in to take a ride around the farm, you invariably have to clear away guns and knives, tools, and things Will collects from the woods in order to make room to sit down. In the spirit of a “What’s in your handbag?” article, Will was a good sport and let us go through his stuff and take photos of it to put on the internet.

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Will’s Jeep is his toolbox. He has a rope because things need tying, a chain because things need pulling, a crowbar because things need prying apart… you get the picture. The hammer is Will’s key to every door (like the John Denver song), and he has a pair of gloves because there are a few things out there that are tougher than he is.

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A golfer carries a bag full of different clubs for different shots. Will does the same with guns. He uses a shotgun to keep varmints away, and pistols to avoid arguments and end debates. Pictured is an Outback 12-gauge over and under shotgun, a Ruger 357 Magnum snake charmer, and a Ruger 357 Magnum debate winner.

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The inscribed whip was made by the father of a former employee, a real Florida cowboy. The primary functionality was never to strike the animal; the loud crack that the lash makes has the desired effect of turning animals away so that they can be herded. Notebooks are for recording field observations of the animals and the land. The old bottles were collected in the woods around the pastures. Will says that he has never taken a dose of speed, but he cannot imagine that it is a stronger stimulant than a chew of Red Man. The corkscrew and the Yeti are companion items that receive daily usage.

Items photographed by Laura Mortelliti. Photo of Will by Angie Mosier.

Categories: Staff Spotlight | 5 Comments

Ignite the Consumer Revolution for Regenerative Agriculture

As one of 17 accredited Savory Global Network Hubs around the world, our goal is to help build awareness for the importance of holistic land and animal management practices that create environmental, economic and social benefits. We are inspired by the growing movement comprised of farmers and ranchers who are regenerating their soils, watersheds, wildlife habitats and human communities by practicing Holistic Management.

However, the story doesn’t end there. Consumers need better access to products grown regeneratively. Farmers and ranchers need more opportunities to sell their products in a way that recognizes their dedication to regenerating the environments we all depend upon. And bold brands that are striving to make real change in the marketplace need access to the raw materials that will enable them to deliver environmentally beneficial products everyone can feel proud of.

We hope to help ignite a consumer revolution that demands good stewardship of our lands and proper management of livestock worldwide. Please join us for the 2017 Eat It, Wear It, Regenerate It conference taking place in late October and early November, and be part of a movement that is supporting regenerative agriculture globally. We have incredibly innovative opportunities for you engage with this Consumer Revolution. Whether you can make it to the intimate VIP event in Boulder, to your local Hub, or participate digitally, there are options for everyone to join the conversation.

For our friends here in the Southeast, we’d love for you to join us for our local Hub event in Atlanta on November 4th. Will Harris will host the Southeastern premiere of the Savory Institute’s world broadcast and has put together a team of top chefs to put the “dinner” in our dinner and a movie evening. Each chef will highlight a protein from White Oak Pastures for guests to enjoy while mingling, learning more about our farm’s regenerative farming methods, and viewing the four short films. The event takes place from 6 – 8 p.m. at The Shed at Ponce City Market. Tickets, which include food and two drinks, are $35 and may be purchased online.

Wise food choices will have a great impact in how many acres of land go from unsustainable production practices to those that are regenerative. With your insight and dialogue you can help us craft a better future for all.

Photos by Laura Mortelliti.

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Simply stated: Chickens aren’t vegetarian. They just ain’t.

We’re in the process of redesigning our product labels, and the first thing to go will be the “Vegetarian Fed” claim on our poultry. Vegetarian diets for chickens have been highly marketed, and successful; however, there’s nothing natural about a completely vegetarian diet for a chicken.

While our non-GMO chicken feed mixture is 100% vegetarian and contains no animal by-products as our current label indicates, we don’t want to imply that our chickens don’t have access to the kind of proteins they evolved eating, which they can hunt and forage for themselves. Our chickens live outside, completely unconfined and free to roam our pastures where they get a tremendous amount of nutrition.

We are not just talking about worms and bugs. We have seen our chickens eat frogs, mice, snakes, and any other animal protein sources that they can get their beaks into, including their own dead. It ain’t pretty, but it is nature.

We are not talking about chickens that are starved to near death, or chickens that are driven to the edge of chicken insanity by industrial confinement. We are talking about well-fed, well-adjusted chickens. They naturally love to forage for a cornucopia of food sources, which includes meat.

Look at them. Try to picture a miniature Tyrannosaurus Rex with feathers instead of scales. It looks like a chicken, doesn’t it?

Categories: Animal Welfare | Tags: | 4 Comments

Debunking the “feed the world” myth

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The topic of “feeding the world” is hotly debated.

Industrialized agriculture interests argue that factory farming is the only way to feed our growing world population. This mantra is used to justify destructive and inhumane practices that make food artificially cheap and wastefully abundant.

We believe that every country has a right to develop their own food production system. We don’t believe that we American farmers and ranchers are supposed to feed the entire world; we think we’re supposed to feed our community. That being said, we’re very happy to take this opportunity to explain our perspective on this issue.

Before having that discussion, we all need to stipulate that the earth has a limited carrying capacity, meaning there are not infinite resources available on this planet to produce food and sustain life for an unlimited population.

If the acreage that is available to farm is the only limiting factor, industrialized agriculture wins. By using artificial crutches developed by reductionist science, factory farms can produce more food per acre of land than regenerative farms can.

If petroleum is the limiting factor for feeding the world, we win, because we don’t use as much as they do. If global warming is the limiting factor, we win. We don’t produce as many greenhouse gasses as they do. If antibiotic-resistant pathogens are the limiting factor, we win. If topsoil loss, endangering wildlife species, increasing dead areas in the seas, pesticide contamination, diminished resources, water shortage and contamination, and a host of other disasters are the limiting factor, we win. These problems have only been with us since agriculture became industrialized.

Factory farming truly made food abundant and cheap. It is more efficient and productive per acre of land, if that is the only consideration. But it has horrific unintended consequences for our animals, our natural resources, and the economy of rural America.

Categories: Animal Welfare, Regenerative Land Management, Rural Community | 11 Comments

Look inside our 19th century general store

We’ve been working hard all summer to restore Bluffton, Georgia’s historic 175-year-old general store as part of our effort to breathe life into our little town. This will be the first store within the city limits in 40 years. There are only a few days left until our grand opening on October 15th, but we couldn’t wait to share our progress with you as we put on the finishing touches.

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As a tribute to its rich history, we retained as much of the original store as possible. We’ve kept the original counters, preserved the floors and other woodwork, and decorated the store with its authentic artifacts and others from around the farm. Check out our previous blog post for more on the store’s history.

We have plenty of space now, so we’re able to offer an expanded selection of White Oak Pastures products. We have all 10 species of red meat and poultry available, as well as eggs, vegetables, and artisan goods. We’ve been busy pickling and canning our organic vegetables to put on the shelves, and we’ll offer cooked sausage dogs to eat in the store from our expanded sausage line.

Check out our leather shop inside the General Store where we’re making leather goods by hand from our cattle hides. Every day we’re designing new earrings, bracelets, bags, wallets, and more. You can even dye your own bracelets, which make wonderful gifts. We’re also displaying beautiful cowhide rugs for sale that we just picked up from the tannery in Sebring, FL.

We’re showcasing plenty of other Georgia Grown products, too. The majority of the items on our shelves are produced locally, including pepper jellies and fruit preserves to pair with our meats and Sweet Grass Dairy cheeses; pancake, brownie, scone, and bread baking mixes; and oils, syrups, and sauces. We’ve also installed a brand new ice cream machine, which Will might have put in for himself, but regardless, we’d love for you to try some, too.

We hope this will be more of a community gathering place than just a general store. We have bicycles for rent to ride around Bluffton or the farm, or you can sit outside and eat a meal from our food trailer. Across the street we’re building a new hide barn, where we’ll prepare cowhides to be sent for tanning, or start the process of making rawhide pet chews. With all these activities right in downtown Bluffton, you can get the White Oak Pastures farm experience in one quick visit.

Come visit our new store at 101 Church St in Bluffton. We hope to see you on the farm soon!

Categories: Rural Community | 2 Comments

Holiday turkeys with a higher purpose

You’ve heard it before. Our turkeys freely roam our pastures completely unconfined, and are never treated with antibiotics or steroids. They are slaughtered and hand-butchered on our farm in our zero-waste, USDA-inspected processing abattoir. Our turkeys are Non-GMO Project Verified, Animal Welfare Approved, Certified Humane and Step 5+ in the Global Animal Partnership program.

With these attributes, our turkeys surely will make a great centerpiece for your holiday meal. But this year, our birds have a mission that’s much bigger: to heal and restore the land.

Earlier this year, we purchased 250 acres of land that had been stripped of life by decades of monocultural row crop production. By transitioning to a wide variety of diverse species of plants and animals through holistic management, we are working hard to turn this soil from a dead mineral medium to one that’s teeming with life. This Spring, we took our first step toward restoring the land by moving cattle onto it to eat hay, break up the soil with their hooves, and urinate and defecate to add nutrients to the land.

Now it’s the turkeys’ turn. Following our Serengeti Rotational Grazing Model, these birds are pecking and scratching to open up the soil and evenly spread the fertilizer left by the previous herd. They’re adding more fertility to the soil by depositing manure, removing weeds that the ruminants won’t eat, and preparing the land for the new grasses that are beginning to grow. By simply engaging in their natural behaviors, the turkeys are serving a higher purpose by turning this land into productive pasture that will benefit future generations.

This year, we are especially thankful for our turkeys’ contribution to the organism that is White Oak Pastures, and we are excited to share their goodness with you. We hope you and your family will enjoy our holiday turkeys as much as we do; visit our website to purchase yours.

Photos by Laura Mortelliti.

Categories: Animal Welfare, Regenerative Land Management | Tags: , | 2 Comments

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