USDA Sets Grass-Fed Marketing Claim Standard

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Marketing Service arm is establishing a voluntary standard for a grass fed livestock marketing claim. This standard, which goes into effect Nov. 15, 2007, incorporates the revisions made as a result of comments received from an earlier proposed standard, the agency said.

With the establishment of this voluntary standard, livestock producers may request that a grass (forage) fed claim be verified by the USDA. Verification of this claim will be accomplished through an audit of the production process in accordance with procedures that are contained in Part 62 of Title 7 of the Code of Federal Regulations, and the meat sold from these approved programs can carry a claim verified by USDA.

The Denver, Col.-based American Grassfed Association (AGA), representing more than 300 grassfed livestock producers, rejected the newly announced standards.

"The USDA rules for grassfed claims don't serve consumers or farmers well," said AGA director Carrie Balkcom. "Consumers of grassfed products want animals raised on pasture without growth hormones or antibiotics. Farmers need a standard that will preserve consumer trust in grassfed claims and protect the value of this important niche market.”

The rejection of the standard by AGA comes on the heels of a grassroots campaign in 2006 that generated over 19,000 comments on an initial draft of the USDA grassfed standard. Balkcom said the comments — primarily from consumers who support more rigorous standards for grassfed claims, including requirements that animals be raised on pasture, and prohibitions on hormone and antibiotic treatments — were ignored by the USDA.
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