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FSIS issues guidance on grass fed label

Beef cattle in pasture
AMS withdrew the labeling standard earlier this year.

For nearly a decade USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service had overseen a voluntary label program for grassfed livestock products that was well recognized by farmers and consumers alike.

Related: USDA withdraws grass-fed marketing standard

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Agriculture Coalition, together with allied agricultural and consumer organizations, urged FSIS to adopt the rescinded AMS standard – a well-respected label claim that had been developed over three years with robust stakeholder participation.

On Sept. 30, the Food Safety and Inspection Service released labeling guidance.  The guidance says grass fed claims require a signed and dated document describing how the animals are raised.

“We are pleased that FSIS has clarified through this guidance that any label claim using the term ‘grassfed’ must meet a 100% grassfed standard,” said Ferd Hoefner, policy director for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. “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.”

Hoefner said they appreciate that FSIS added access to pasture as a requirement, but the NSAC also has concerns with the guidance.

“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,” Hoefner said.

“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.”

Source: National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

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