The United States Department of Agriculture has been working to publish a grassfed claim since 2002. The American Grassfed Association (AGA) of which Dr. Whisnant is President 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.
This USDA standard can be read as a part of the Federal Register at http://a257.g.akamaitech.net/7/257/2422/01jan20071800/edocket.access.gpo.gov/2007/E7-20328.htm.
On behalf of myself as President and the Board of Directors of the AGA we appreciate the effort made by the Agricultural Marketing Service of the USDA to establish a Grass Fed Claim for Ruminant Livestock.
That said, we are disappointed with the content of the Standard that AMS-USDA finalized today. We believe that this Standard, as published, fails to adequately address the following basic facets, tenets and integrity of Grass Fed animal husbandry:
• The use of artificial hormones is allowed under this standard.
• The use of therapeutic and sub-therapeutic antibiotics is allowed under this standard.
• Excessive confinement practices are allowed under this standard since access to pasture and frost dates are easily manipulated.
• Artificial milk replacers are allowed under this standard including those from bovine sources.
• The unrestricted supplementation of energy is [apparently] allowed, as long as the feedings are recorded.This standard does not set any restriction on amount, frequency or type.
• The label can [apparently] be used without the process verification of a third party auditor under this standard since FSIS will not limit the use of the term to those verified.
We (AGA) feel that the spirit of the claim is negated by these allowances. Further, we are certain that the confusion on the part of the consumer will increase under this labeling standard.
As a result the AGA, with its 300 producer members, will partner with the non-profit organization Animal Welfare Approved to promote a separate standard and certification program for grassfed livestock. Animal Welfare Approved is widely known for its work with sustainable family farms, humane animal care, and environmental stewardship. The new program will add a grassfed audit option to the existing Animal Welfare Approved certification. Grassfed meat producers who pass the audit will be able to use the names and seals of both the American Grassfed Association and Animal Welfare Approved .