September 30, 2016
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Ferd Hoefner, 202-547-5754
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition Applauds Action to Preserve Grassfed Label
Ongoing oversight will be needed to prevent against misleading label claims
Washington, DC, September 30, 2016 – In response to significant criticism from producers and consumers of sustainable meats following their revocation of the grassfed label claim in early 2016, today the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released an animal production claims guidance document intended to ward against misleading label claims.
For nearly a decade USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) had overseen a voluntary label program for grassfed livestock products that was well recognized by farmers and consumers alike. Earlier this year, however AMS withdrew the standard, claiming that USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) was actually the agency with the legal standing to oversee the label claim. Following AMS’ revocation of the standard, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), together with allied agricultural and consumer organizations, urged FSIS to adopt the rescinded AMS standard – a well-respected label claim that had been developed over three years with robust stakeholder participation
NSAC Policy Director Ferd Hoefner, offered these comments on FSIS’ release of the guidance document:
We are pleased that FSIS has clarified through this guidance that any label claim using the term ‘grassfed’ must meet a 100% grassfed standard. Taking this action was necessary to preserve the label’s strong reputation, and we applaud FSIS’ swift response to producer and consumer concerns following AMS’ withdrawal of the standard earlier this year.
We also appreciate that FSIS has required access to pasture during the growing season as part of the grassfed definition. This was not part of the original AMS standard, but is certainly a valuable addition.
The guidance is not perfect, however, and subsequent grassfed claims will require stringent scrutiny. Even with this new guidance, FSIS can still approve lesser label claims, such as “75% grassfed” or “80% grassfed”. These claims are misleading for consumers and harmful to the farmers and ranchers who have built their reputations, and indeed an entire industry, on the 100% grassfed standard.
USDA needs the legal authority to not only enforce strong, pro-farmer, pro-consumer standards, but also to reject misleading claims. We will continue to support FSIS in upholding a strong 100% grassfed label claim standard, while also advocating for an improved process that does not leave the door open for misleading, lesser claims.
About the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC)
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition is a grassroots alliance that advocates for federal policy reform supporting the long-term social, economic, and environmental sustainability of agriculture, natural resources, and rural communities. Learn more: http://sustainableagriculture.net
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