Hi everyone! I’m Amber! I’m the Speciality Products Manager here at the farm. I’ve lived and worked on the farm since June 2013. I moved from Atlanta, and yes, it was a culture shock! I do a little bit of everything around here… from pet treats to tallow soap and candle making, leather goods and all of our social media pages. I’m also in charge of our Pasture Raised eggs. It all keeps me very busy, but I’m not complaining! I love being here and being part of such a wonderful farm and family.
Before moving to Bluffton, I lived alone and didn’t cook a lot, but when I did, I thought I did a pretty good job with the groceries I purchased. Yes, I was picky, mostly about the price, but I wanted to feel like I was supporting the most humane treatment of animals for what I could afford. After moving to the farm and learning how White Oak Pastures truly cares about the life of each animal, the environmental sustainability, and the quality of each product sent out to our customers, I wish I had learned about this place years ago! I have thought a lot about the green washing of each label placed on products today. There’s a lot of attention being brought to this issue right now, and I want to help you truly understand the difference in our farm and others that claim to do what we do.
When you shop for quality food for you and your family, how do you know everything on the label is true? There are so many words used today, it can be quite confusing. There’s Free Range, Pasture Raised, Cage Free, Grassfed, and tons more. But how do you know the true meaning behind each label without doing hours of research? It comes down to this… KNOW YOUR FARMER. If you have visited the farm where you buy your meat and eggs, you don’t have to think twice about the label. You’ve already seen it with your own eyes. You know the farmer, farming practices, you know the treatment of the animals and land and you know exactly how the animals are raised and slaughtered.
If you aren’t lucky enough to visit your farmer, here’s a little help on understanding the difference in the labels (with the help of http://www.georgiaorganics.org):
Free-Range (laying hens) – Typically, free-range hens are not caged, but are inside barns or warehouses and have some degree of outdoor access. There aren’t any requirements for the amount, duration or quality of outdoor access. There are no restrictions regarding what the birds can be fed. Beak cutting and forced molting through starvation are permitted.
Free-Range (chickens) – The USDA allows for any chicken raised with access to the outdoors to be labeled “free-range”. Nowhere does it state that the chickens have to actually go outdoors; ACCESS is the only legal binding verbiage of that rule. They may still be raised in the same overpopulated poultry house type production and be labeled “free-range”. Certified organic chickens may also be raised like this. Each hen has 67-87 square inches of space (an 8.5 x 11 inch piece of paper has 93 square inches).
Cage free – meaningless and intentionally misleading. The term “cage free” is only relevant for eggs and egg-laying hens. Chickens and turkeys raised for meat in the U.S. are not, and never have been, raised in cages. The Cage Free label on chicken or turkey packages serves no other purpose than to capitalize on the popularity of the ‘cage free’ label for eggs and profit from consumers’ ignorance of industry rearing methods for meat birds.
Pasture Raised – for us, this means our laying hens and broiler birds are on pasture 24/7, completely unconfined. They have access to a house, which is used for protection from rain, cold weather or predators, such as coyotes. The doors on the houses are not closed and the birds are not forced to spend any time inside, they choose this on their own.
Grassfed – the large and small ruminants (cows, goats and sheep) are on pasture and allowed to express their natural instincts and graze on grass and haylage. Some companies use the word “grassfed” but you have to read the fine print because the animals may be “grain finished.” This means they are fed grains towards the end of their lives to fatten them up a bit. We do not feed any grains to our cows, goats or sheep.
I hope this helps you better understand the true meaning of each label you may see at your local grocery store or Farmer’s Market.
Please feel free to come visit us! We love showing our guests exactly what we do. We take pride in being 100% transparent with how we raise, slaughter, butcher and package each species on our farm.
I look forward to writing each Thursday and hopefully hearing back from y’all!