NFU and NSAC Join Letter Urging FSIS to Adopt Meaningful Grassfed Label Standard
March 25, 2016
A coalition of nine agricultural and consumer organizations, including National Farmers Union (NFU) and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), today sent the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) a letter urging the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to reinstate a meaningful grassfed label for meat.
USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) had overseen a voluntary label program for grassfed livestock products since 2007, but withdrew the standard in January. AMS's revocation of that label claim standard provides an opportunity for FSIS "to provide clear direction to protect the integrity of the market," reads the letter.
FSIS is in the process of updating their guidance for the approval of animal production claims on food labels, and the coalition hopes that will include clear guidance on promoting animal production practices, such as how an animal is fed. FSIS staff has indicated that it plans to include language to provide standards for a grassfed label, which signers of the letter believe should be, at least, as high as those in place when AMS was managing the standard.
"We strongly oppose any guidance that allows any label claim with the words 'grassfed' for any product that does not at a minimum meet the definition within the now revoked AMS label claim standard. To allow a lower labeling standard would mislead consumers, to the detriment of grassfed producers," the group wrote.
"Protecting truth and accuracy in the information that we provide to consumers is important for the integrity of our family farmers and ranchers and for our industry as a whole," commented NFU president Roger Johnson. "When AMS decided to withdraw their grassfed labeling claim, it left a gap in the marketplace to define this standard. I am hopeful that FSIS will adopt the former AMS standard as their new guidance for the labeling of grassfed meat products."
"We spent three years working with AMS to coordinate the robust stakeholder effort that led to the creation of the AMS grassfed label claim standard," said NSAC Policy Director Ferd Hoefner. "The revocation of the standard by AMS creates a great opportunity for FSIS label guidance, based on the AMS standard, to protect the integrity of the claim and thereby aid both farmers and consumers in this important and growing market."
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Signatories on the letter are the American Grassfed Association, Center for Rural Affairs, Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Reports, CROPP Cooperative | Organic Valley | Organic Prairie, Food Animal Concerns Trust, National Farmers Union, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, and Western Organization of Resource Councils.