The USDA revoked the Grass Fed food labeling that had become our new standard, just shortly after settling on this standard. In what might be the worst case of giving up for nothing that we have ever seen. Read through this release from the natural sustainable agricultural coalition’s website. It is a bit hard to follow at first, but you’ll understand it as you get further in.
Washington, DC, January 12, 2016 – Today in the Federal Register, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) rescinds the labeling standard for grass fed meat that was developed over the course of four years and finalized, with the support of national farm and consumer organizations including NSAC, in 2006.
“Meat labeling just became even more confusing for farmers and consumers,” said Ferd Hoefner, Policy Director for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. “USDA is revoking a label standard that had widespread farm and consumer support. Actions such as this take us into a Wild West situation, where anything goes and both farmers and consumers lose.”
In the Federal Register notice, AMS states that having a strong, clear, consumer-friendly labeling standard “does not facilitate the marketing of agricultural products in a manner that is useful to stakeholders or consumers” because a different USDA agency, the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS), must approve meat labels and “there is no guarantee that an USDA-verified production/marketing claim will be approved by FSIS.”
“The rationale that a strong USDA label standard for grass fed beef is not useful because it might not be recognized by a partner agency is outrageous,” said Hoefner. “It is both sad and true that these two USDA agencies often do not coordinate, and worse yet that in some cases FSIS has looked the other way, allowing particularly unscrupulous meat companies to abuse the USDA standard,” Hoefner said. “But the common sense solution is not to revoke the standard, but instead to tackle siloing and lack of interagency communication head-on.”
The Federal Register notice gives producers using the grass fed label 30 days to either convert the newly revoked USDA grass fed label claim into their own private grass-fed standard, or to develop a new grass fed standard of their own.
“Rather than bringing consistency and common sense to our food marketing system, USDA seems to be throwing in the towel,” said Hoefner. “This is terrible public policy that will create a multitude of non-uniform labels, which will open the door to more confusion and subterfuge in the marketplace. It is an affront to consumers, who have the right to know how their food is raised, and to the farmers whose innovation and hard work created the trusted grass fed label standard. NSAC and our member organizations believe this reversal is a detriment to a fair and transparent food system and we urge the USDA to come up with an alternative solution quickly.”
The grass fed label claim standard now being revoked was originally published in the Federal Register on May 12, 2006, the result of several years of meetings between farmers and farm and consumer organizations sponsored by AMS and facilitated by NSAC, as well as by a formal public notice and comment process. The standard stated among other things that grass, forbs, and forage needed to be 99 percent or more of the energy source for the lifetime of a ruminant species after weaning in order to qualify as grass fed. Prior to the setting of that standard, grain fed animals were often sold as grass fed, with USDA’s approval.
Basically, what this means, is that I as a local farmer, or a conglomerate, choose my grass fed label and my grass fed rules. The standard is basically gone. Which is why it all just got worse for everyone. I had considered carrying beef on hand from Indian Creek Angus, the trusted farm that we have been buying from for years now (in our co-op cow shares and literally 99% of my personal/family beef consumption); so now my consideration went to definite. I will be working out the details this week, as I will no longer be recommending purchase from any other source than one you can talk with.
Some of you might not know why this is so important. Grass Fed provides you with so many benefits over conventional grain fed beef. No chemically sprayed grain, the omega 6 content is greatly reduced, so much so that in the right animal, who has been nothing but grass fed for their entire life, the ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fat can be 1 to 1. This as compared to a 20 times higher omega 6 level than 3, in that of a grain fed animal.
The question then, becomes, how do we know if it is truly a grass fed animal? And the label has been the only thing you could trust, but even prior to this change, the label only got you to a 4:1 ratio at best, and perhaps 10:1. Meaning, a local farmer who can show you the truth, is way better than one who cannot.
We’ll be here to get your back, and your beef. Be well and Be blessed! - Dr. E