A reporter recently asked that I clarify a position I had taken concerning the USDA 2006 grass fed proposal.
REPORTER: The Associated Press quoted your concerns about the USDA’s recent proposal to broaden the term grass fed. They’re suggesting that only 99 percent, rather than 100 percent, of a cow’s diet come from grass forage and by defining forage more broadly to include things like leftover corn stalks from harvest and silage, which are fermented grasses and legumes. You seem to be a strict grass-is-grass constructionist on the issue. Will that 1% really make a difference? And what is the detrimental effect of silage?
DR. WHISNANT: No, I do not feel that the 1% will make a difference! In fact, in the letter I drafted to the USDA, as President of the American Grassfed Association, I applauded them for addressing the previously published claim of 80% and making the change to 99%. From a pure marketing standpoint I think the 100% would have sounded more genuine, but I appreciate their desire to make the 99% the truth in practice that would allow for inadvertent exposure to grains or any prohibited feed material.
My problem with the use of corn silage as a forage is not so much a problem with it’s inclusion in the standard but with the lack of clarification and precise definition of the use of the term immature grain. After having observed some of the loopholes in the organic standard I think you open the way for abuse if a sliding scale for maturity is applied to the use of corn silage. I believe that a better definition can be found to clarify the proper use of silage. Silage would be great; sliding the scale all the way to grain maturity, which would potentially decrease the perceived health and safety benefits of the product, would not be great. I just think the standard can be worded more precisely to clearly define permitted forage sources. The use of vague terminology invites skirting of the intent.