While we were all busy keeping up with New Year resolutions and kids back to school, the USDA announced they will retire the Grassfed Labeling Standard. The reason was unclear.
What does this mean? This means confusion for consumers and an eroding of trust for the grassfed label.
The USDA created the grassfed standard in 2006 after a lengthy public process that lasted for several years. The regulatory arm of the USDA was not very thorough with their process however. They required no audit or other verification other than a producer-signed affidavit, and thus the term was often misused and abused. So basically, it wasn’t a very good standard to begin with. Going forward as the standards have been dropped it gets even worse. Producers now get to define their own grassfed claim and standards. The USDA will continue to approve grassfed labeling claims, however these claims will be created by simply answering a question about what grassfed means to them.
I wish I was kidding.
The solution right now is to get to know your farmer. The burden is now on you to research and find out which producer or brand you deem grassfed. And it means you’ll have to contact each producer individually and ask them a ton of questions in order to find out.
THE GOOD NEWS: Private Grassfed Certifiers are NOT Affected by This
The American Grassfed Association will continue to certify ranchers, and we can still trust the grassfed label from a producer with this certification. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind:
- American Grassfed Association standards are more comprehensive and stringent than the USDA standards ever were in the first place. They will continue to be able to certify standards for a grassfed claim. AGA certified producers will continue to legally use the AGA logo on their meat label.
- If you don’t have the luxury of knowing your producer personally, look for the AGA label. It means animals were fed a 100% forage diet, never confined to a feedlot, never fed antibiotics or hormones, and born and raised on an American family farm. You can find a producer near you by clicking on this link.
- Avoid buying inexpensive grocery store grassfed. Unfortunately, chances are the meat will be imported, especially since the Country of origin labeling has also been expired. This means you have NO way of knowing or verifying what the producer did on the farm.
- Avoid buying meat with a grassfed percentage on the label. That means you will see 90% grassfed, 50% grassfed, etc. The reason behind this is studies have shown that even a small amount of grain in the animal’s diet affects the nutritional profile of the meat. So if you are going to spend the money on a grassfed superior product, get the REAL DEAL. Don’t settle for less.
- As for producers, they now have the ability to stretch the truth a bit. Producers who have never used the grassfed claim may seek label approval from the USDA as long as they provide “documentation about what grassfed means to them.” This means it’s now the wild wild west of labeling. They create their own standards.
Ranches We Recommend
Because we host an organic/natural social media conference every year called ShiftCon, we have had the opportunity to work with, and try meats from several different grassfed ranches from all across the United States. We worked with five ranches this year providing grassfed and pastured meats:
All are available for online purchases and we recommend you check them out! We produced several nonGMO meals with their help! And if you decide to support them, you’ll get meat from animals that are 100% foraged, never confined to a feedlot, never given genetically modified feed, never given antibiotics or hormones, and are born and raised on an American family farm.