Monthly Archives: May 2016

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

Restoring productivity of overgrown forest through holistic animal impact

We all know a thing or two about grazing: basically, we think of livestock on pasture eating grass. Using holistic planned grazing, we can add biodiversity and shape the land to achieve a desired usage. Browsing, on the other hand, isn’t as well-known. Browsing is when livestock eat the leaves, stems and fruits of trees and shrubs. Much like we browse around a store when shopping, animals walk through a wooded area picking off their favorite vegetation. Sheep and cattle are typically better grazers, while goats are more effective browsers.

We’ve recently leased a 200-acre wooded area, and it’s the kind of place goats dream about when they go to sleep at night. This land hasn’t had livestock on it for 60 years, and as all land longs to do, it returned to a forest. In this state, it’s Valhalla, Eden, and Shangri-La for goats and their browsing tendencies.

Forests are a great environmentally-sound utilization of land, but the growing population of the earth needs food and our region needs jobs. These needs don’t align well with allowing huge productive masses of land to go unused. Instead of clearing the unused land using destructive methods like burning or applying chemical pesticides or bulldozers, we’ll use animal impact as a productive and ecologically sound way to bring the land back into high-quality forage production.

This is a method we’ve used for generations at White Oak Pastures. To better explain the process, we put together several photos from around the farm of land in different stages of management: 1. land that has not been browsed; 2. land that’s had one browsing; 3. land that’s had five years of browsing; and 4. land that’s been browsed since Will’s grandfather ran the farm. You can see the browse line is higher in each picture as the goats stretch higher and higher to clear out the brush.

Once goats have done their job on our newly acquired land, we’ll graze sheep, then cattle. It’ll go from a forest that a cat could barely walk through, to a savanna you could ride through on a horse. It’s like a palette, and using animal impact we’ll paint this land into our own masterpiece.

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Categories: Regenerative Land Management | 9 Comments

White Oak Pastures goes non-GMO

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For years, we have wanted to make the change to non-GMO feed for our poultry, pigs, and rabbits, but we struggled to find a feed mill that could handle our volume. Recently, we were able to find a supplier to consistently deliver non-GMO feed to White Oak Pastures, and we are proud to announce that our poultry, eggs, pork, and rabbits are now non-GMO and verified by the Non-GMO Project.

We have received many customer requests for non-GMO products, stemming from the fact that none of us really know what effects GMOs could have on the animals, the environment, and us. We are farmers, not scientists, but we do know that genetically engineering plants is very new. We won’t know the effects of GMOs for a long time, and we want to do what’s right for our farm and our customers right now.

In all of our practices we endeavor to emulate nature. Our best emulation of nature is imperfect, and our worst emulation of nature is still in need of improvement. Improving these emulations is a journey and it is our mission. Today we are excited to take one more step down this path.

Categories: Animal Welfare, Regenerative Land Management | Tags: , , | 8 Comments

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 fat, and the rest of our products in our online store!

Categories: Regenerative Land Management | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

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