Vital Farms Story

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Vital Farms’ founder Matt O’Hayer’s lifelong love for the egg business began as a teenager back in 1968 when he gave up his Providence, RI, paper route in favor of selling eggs door-to-door. Fast forward to 2007, when, after a series of successful business ventures, Matt and his wife Catherine settled back in Austin, TX, and started raising their first flock of 20 hens on a small piece of land south of the city. The “Egg Man” had come home to roost. Their initial goal was to show that humanely raising hens outdoors with access to open pastures (and all the natural goodness found therein) would produce better quality and more delicious eggs—and their early popularity at Farmers’ Markets around Austin showed that to be the case. From there, it was a short leap into grocery stores, with bigger flocks, better understandings and a plan to scale this method of farming to suit the challenges of commercial production, without compromising the ethical standards that they had established. Those ideas became the foundation of the company’s mission.

Vital Farms Eggs

Newly branded as Vital Farms, the company began to grow, adding new farms to their network, and collaborating with animal welfare groups to codify the farming system and standards that it pioneered, in the process creating a sustainable and scalable farming model that would ensure consistency, quality, and accountability. Those same standards are now applied consistently with the roughly 120 independent family chicken farms that Vital Farms works with—a care for the hens, the land that they roam (our pastures are never treated with chemicals of any kind), the farmers, their communities, all the way through to the folks who experience the joy of a perfect egg every time they crack one open!

In 2015 Vital Farms ventured their first new category, introducing a superior quality, high butter fat, pasture-raised butter to the market, and adding a group of 90 family dairy farms and artisanal butter-makers to their network. While the standards for dairy cattle are obviously very different from those for the hens, Vital Farms’ commitment to quality, animal welfare, and ethical food production remains true to its founders’ vision and mission. Vital Farms also recently opened its first egg packing facility, ‘Egg Central Station’, in Springfield, MO, close to the heart of it’s production center. True to Vital Farms’ standards, the state-of-the-art facility was built with key features to ensure food safety, crew comfort, and safety and environmental considerations. Today, Vital Farms leads the fast-growing pasture-raised egg category it helped pioneer. What started as a belief that there was a better way to produce eggs, turned into a stakeholder-centric, socially-conscious business operating at the highest levels of quality and accountability.

 

Shelf Life & Product Date Labeling

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The USDA estimates we waste 30 percent of all food due to consumers throwing away wholesome food due to expiration dates.

Manufacturers provide dating to help consumers decide when food is of best quality. With the exception of infant formula, dates are not an indicator of the product’s safety and are not actually required by federal law.

Examples of commonly used phrases:

Best if Used By/Before” indicates when a product will be of best flavor or quality. It is not a date determined for safety.
“Sell–By” date tells the store how long to display the product for sale for inventory management. It is not a safety date.
“Use–By” date is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. It is not a safety date, except when used on infant formula.

HELPFUL REMINDERS:

Shelf Life & Product Date Labeling

With the exception of infant formula, if the date passes during home storage, a product should still be safe and wholesome if handled properly until the time spoilage is obvious. Spoiled foods will develop an off odor, flavor or texture due to naturally occurring spoilage bacteria.

Spoilage bacteria cause foods to develop unpleasant characteristics, but do not cause illness. A change in the color of meat or poultry is not actually an indicator of spoilage.

Some state egg laws may require a “Sell-By” or “Expiration” date, but it is not a federal regulation.

Cans must exhibit a code or the date of canning, which is mainly used as a way to track the product. These codes are not meant for the consumer to interpret as a “Best if Used By” date. Cans that are dented, rusted or swollen should be discarded.

In an effort to reduce food waste, put your newer items in the back of your refrigerator or pantry. That way, older items will be front and center and you’ll be more likely to use them before they go bad. It’s important that consumers understand that food products are usually safe to consume past the date on the label. Evaluate the quality of your food products prior to eating, and discard if there are noticeable changes in wholesomeness.

NOTE: Do not buy or use baby formula after its “Use-By” date.

To learn more, check out Food Safety and Inspection Service’s information on food product dates.

Cleaning and Sanitizing

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Illness causing bacteria can survive in many places around your kitchen, such as your hands, utensils and cutting boards. Reduce the risk of spreading bacteria to your food and your family by washing your hands, utensils and surfaces often and the right way.

  • Wash your hands briskly for at least 20 seconds with warm running water and plain soap.
  • Rinse them well and dry them with a clean towel.

Everyone in your family should always wash their hands:
o Before eating food.
o Before, during and after preparing food.
o Before and after treating a cut or wound.
o Before and after caring for someone who is sick.
o After handling uncooked eggs or raw meat, poultry or seafood.
o After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
o After touching an animal.
o After touching garbage.
o After using the toilet.

Bacteria can also be spread throughout your kitchen if food contact surfaces and utensils are not cleaned and sanitized frequently. Remember these tips to alleviate the spread of bacteria in your home:

  • After preparing each food item, thoroughly wash your cutting boards, dishes, utensils and countertops.
  • Use a clean cloth to wipe up spills and kitchen surfaces.
  • And as an extra precaution, add one tablespoon of liquid chlorine bleach to one gallon of water and use it to sanitize washed surfaces and utensils in your home kitchen.

For additional Food Safety cleaning facts, refer to foodsafety.gov.

Cooking Temperature Basics

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One way to stay safe is to make sure you’re cooking foods to the right temperatures. Cook all food to these minimum internal temperatures, and always use a food thermometer to confirm they are done. (You may choose to cook food to higher temperatures based on personal preference.)

ProductMinimum Internal Temperature
All Poultry (breasts, whole bird, legs, thighs, & wings, ground poultry, and stuffing165°F
Beef, Pork, Veal & Lamb Steaks, chops, roasts145°F and allow to rest for at least 3 minutes
Eggs160°F
Fish & Shellfish145°F
Fully Cooked HamReheat cooked hams packaged in USDA inspected plants to 140°F; all others to 165°F
Ground meats160°F
Ham, fresh or smoked (uncooked)145°F
Leftovers & Casseroles165°F

If you have a question about meat, poultry or egg products, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline toll free at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854). The Hotline is open year-round Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET (English or Spanish). Recorded food safety messages are available 24 hours a

day. Check out the Food Safety Inspection Service’s website at www.fsis.usda.gov.

Leftovers 101

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Leftovers 101

Many of us rely on leftovers to get though our busy week! Use the tips below to safely handle leftovers and protect your family from foodborne illness.

  • Place your leftovers in a shallow container, less than two inches deep, to cool quickly because bacteria grows rapidly at warmer temperatures.
  • Refrigerate foods within two hours of preparation. This rule changes to one hour when the temperature is above 90°F. Remember, the clock starts ticking as soon as your food is done cooking.
  • Try to use leftovers within two to three days or freeze them for longer storage.
  • It’s very important to reheat leftovers to an internal temperature of 165°F before you eat them.
  • Always use a food thermometer to verify the temperature of your leftovers.

Click here to read the USDA’s tips on leftovers and food safety.

Keeping Your Food at the Right Temperature

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The bacteria that causes food poisoning multiplies rapidly in the “Danger Zone” between 40°F and 140°F. Cold temperatures slow the growth of harmful bacteria, so always aim to keep your food cold!

Keeping Your Food at the Right Temperature

Here are some tips to remember when getting your groceries from the store to your refrigerator at home:

  • Shop our non-perishable aisles first, and then head to our refrigerated and frozen aisles.
  • Load perishables into an air-conditioned car, not your trunk.
  • Unload perishable items first and refrigerate or freeze them as soon as you get home.
  • Discard perishables left at room temperature for longer than two hours. This rule changes to one hour when the temperature is above 90°F, and remember, this includes travel time.
  • Check the temperature of your refrigerator and freezer using an appliance thermometer. Your refrigerator should be keeping a constant temperature of 40°F or below and the freezer should stay at 0°F.
  • The safest way to thaw food is in the refrigerator. Place thawing item in a container so thawing liquids don’t drip on other foods.

Make sure to check out the USDA’s Cold Storage Chart to see how long specific foods should be kept refrigerated or frozen.

Foodborne Illness Information

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Foodborne Illness Information

In a perfect world, no one would get sick, least of all from eating food. Unfortunately, bacteria is naturally present in our environment and it would be impossible to eliminate all pathogens from our food chain. Therefore, bacteria may be present on food products when you purchase them and could cause foodborne illness if not properly handled.

Examples of products that may contain foodborne illnesses include raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs, as well as produce such as lettuce, tomatoes, sprouts and melons. Everyone in the supply chain, including consumers, have an important role to play in reducing their risk of foodborne illness.

Foodborne illnesses are preventable through good personal hygiene, avoiding cross-contamination and adhering to proper cooking temperatures.

In case of suspected Foodborne Illness, follow these general guidelines:

1. Seek treatment as necessary. If the victim is in an “at-risk” group, seek medical care immediately. Likewise, if symptoms persist or are severe (such as bloody diarrhea, excessive nausea and vomiting, or high temperature), call your doctor.
2. Call the local health department if the suspected food was served at a large gathering, from a restaurant or other food service facility, or if it is a commercial product.
3. Call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) if the suspect food is a USDA-inspected product and you have all of the packaging.

Check out the FDA’s list of what you need to know about foodborne illnesses.

Preparing Food and Avoiding Cross Contamination

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Food Preparation
Raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs can spread illness-causing bacteria to ready-to-eat foods if you don’t keep them separate.

Remember these helpful tips to avoid cross contamination:

  • Use one cutting board for fresh produce and a different one for raw meat, poultry or seafood.
  • Never place cooked food on a plate that previously held raw meat, poultry, seafood or eggs.
  • When storing in your refrigerator, place raw meat, poultry and seafood in sealed bags or containers to prevent their liquids from contaminatingotherfood and surfaces.
  • If you are not planning to use these foods within a few days, they should be kept frozen.

Visit fsis.usda.gov to learn more tips on why cross contamination matters.