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Farmers Launch Separate Grassfed Label

 Farmers to Launch Separate Grassfed Label
American Grassfed Association will Partner with Food Alliance
to Promote a Separate Standard and Certification Program

Austin, Texas November 4, 2007 – The American Grassfed Association (AGA), representing over 300 grassfed livestock producers, today announced that they will be launching a certification program in reference to a grassfed label.  The United States Department of Agriculture has been working to publish a grassfed claim since 2002. The AGA strongly protested the 2006 revision which addressed the feeding practice alone and did nothing to link the claim to animals raised on pasture.  Hence, it would have allowed for animals to be raised in a feedlot, fed antibiotics and growth hormones and bear the grassfed label.  Over 19,000 comments  were primarily based in opposition to the confinement issue.

Rising consumer interest in the potential health benefits of grassfed meats has created new market opportunities for farmers and ranchers. However, without accepted standards and criteria, grassfed claims are being made for a wide variety of management and feeding practices. This lack of clarity has made it difficult for consumers to evaluate grassfed claims. While the USDA standard was intended to remedy the problem, producers are reluctant to wait further as they fear the lack of a definitive standard has already eroded the market as many companies market themselves as grassfed and yet finish their beef in feedlots.  The AGA believes it is important to protect the true grassfed producer and consumer by defining the term in a manner that allows for transparency of the entire process.

 

 “The proposed USDA rules don’t serve farmers or consumers well,” said AGA director Carrie Balkom. “What the consumer wants is meat raised on pasture without growth hormones or antibiotics. What the farmer needs is a meaningful standard that will preserve consumer trust in grassfed claims and protect the value of this important niche market.  We do not feel that the government standard will go far enough to clarify the label.”

The AGA said it would partner with the non-profit organization Food Alliance to promote a separate standard and certification program for grassfed livestock. Food Alliance is widely known for its sustainable agriculture certification which addresses labor conditions, humane animal care, and environmental stewardship. The new program will add a grassfed audit option to the existing Food Alliance certification. Grassfed meat producers who pass the audit will be able to use the names and seals of both the American Grassfed Association and Food Alliance.

 “The American Grassfed Association has worked with producers, forage specialists and other researchers to develop our grassfed standard, but lacked the expertise to manage a certification program,” said Balkom explaining the decision to partner with Food Alliance. “We also know that when consumers think about grassfed products, they often roll in a broad and growing set of expectations for social and environmental responsibility. Food Alliance already has a well respected certification program and brings that broader issue coverage.”

“This is going to be an important tool for grassfed producers.” said Food Alliance director Scott Exo. “Certification definitely works as part of a larger marketing strategy to differentiate and add value to products. Farmers and ranchers who are interested can review our existing standards on-line now. We’ll be ready to start accepting applications for grassfed certification later this year.”


About the American Grassfed Association
The American Grassfed Association was founded in 2003 in response to a proposed United States Department of Agriculture standard which would have allowed meats to be labeled grassfed with animals receiving only 80% of their diet from grass and other forage plants. AGA has grown since to represent over 300 grassfed producers, with members also representing the research and food retail communities.
Work by AGA contributed to the USDA proposing a 99% grass and forage diet rule in 2006. However, the standard still allows meat to be labeled “grassfed” even if the animal has been raised in confinement. The USDA also refused to include any criteria beyond feeding practices -- allowing, for example, use of hormones and antibiotics. In July of 2006, AGA launched a grassroots campaign to generate comments on the USDA standard. The USDA received over 19,000 comments, mainly from consumers who support AGA’s position. Despite this outflow of support, the USDA has not indicated that it will require pasturing or that it will include other criteria beyond feed in its definition of grassfed.

About Food Alliance
Food Alliance is a nonprofit organization that certifies farms, ranches, and food handlers (including processors and distributors) for sustainable agricultural and production practices. Businesses that meet Food Alliance’s standards, as determined by a third-party site inspection, use certification to make credible claims for social and environmental responsibility, differentiating their products and strengthening their brands. The certification standards are available at www.foodalliance.org.

Food Alliance launched its certification program in 1998 in Portland, Oregon, with a single apple grower selling in three area grocery stores. Today, there are over 270 Food Alliance certified farms and ranches in 17 U.S. states, Canada and Mexico. These producers manage more than 4.3 million acres of range and farm land, raising beef, lamb, pork, dairy products, mushrooms, wheat, legumes, and a wide variety of fresh market fruits and vegetables. Food Alliance has also certified three distribution facilities and 12 processors offering cheeses, dried beans and lentils, and frozen and canned fruits and vegetables. Food Alliance has offices in Oregon, Minnesota and California

Posted by Patti on November 13, 2007

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