WASHINGTON — The Agricultural Marketing Service is establishing a voluntary standard for a grass-fed livestock marketing claim, to go into effect Nov. 15. Through this new voluntary standard, livestock producers may request that a grass-fed claim be verified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture through an audit of the production process in accordance with procedures that are contained in the Code of Federal Regulations (7 CFR part 62), and the meat sold from these approved programs can carry a claim verified by USDA. The standard incorporates the revisions made from comments received from an earlier proposed standard, published reports said, but the American Grassfed Association, which represents more than 300 grass-fed livestock producers, said that comments from consumers were ignored. A grassroots campaign in 2006 generated over 19,000 comments on an initial draft of the USDA grass-fed standard, primarily from consumers who support more rigorous standards for grass-fed claims, including requirements that animals be raised on pasture and prohibitions on hormone and antibiotic treatments. The AGA rejected the new USDA standards, protesting rules that allow confinement of animals and the use of hormones and antibiotics. According to a published report, AGA noted that the USDA standard only required that animals have access to pasture during the growing season, meaning animals could be kept in confinement for long periods, and that it allowed incidental supplementation of the forage diet to ensure the animals’ welfare, meaning animals could be fed grain and still be marketed as grass-fed. AGA also announced its new partnership with Food Alliance, a national nonprofit certification organization, to promote a separate standard and certification program for grass-fed livestock. Food Alliance will start accepting applications for grass-fed certification later this year, and standards will be posted to www.FoodAlliance.org. Grass-fed meat producers that pass the audit will be able to apply the names and seals of both the American Grassfed Association and Food Alliance.
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