- Applegate Farms, the natural and organic meat brand Hormel acquired a year ago, announced Wednesday that it was removing GMOs from its entire supply chain and seeking third-party certification.
- This commitment includes using animal feed that does not contain genetically-modified ingredients. Applegate had already removed GMO ingredients from its products last year.
- With the announcement, Applegate also rolled out its first products verified by the Non-GMO Project.
This a notable move for a meat company, especially considering the legislation passed by the Senate last week. In that GMO labeling bill, which is scheduled for a vote in the House this week, meat products would no longer be considered genetically modified because the animal ate feed that contained genetically modified ingredients.
Sourcing non-GMO animal feed is a major undertaking and could be challenging. Corn and soy are primary ingredients used in animal feed, and about 90% of those crops grown in the U.S. are genetically modified.
The increased cost of non-GMO feed has discouraged many meat companies from pursuing the non-GMO certification. Applegate's new commitment will only require 672 of the company's nearly 2,500 farms to make changes to their operations, according to Bloomberg. But the Non-GMO Project verification process will also require testing for cross-contamination for the feed growers, haulers and storage facilities that serve all of Applegate's farms.
Applegate's organic products are already non-GMO and the animals don't consume GM feed by necessity for USDA certification, though not all consumers realize that. The biggest difference will come for Applegate's "natural" products, which make up about three-quarters of the company's business, Bloomberg reported.
Bearing the "natural" label means the product complies with Applegate's own internal standards and definition: free of antibiotics, hormones, and artificial ingredients or preservatives. But with no officially regulated definition, the nebulous "natural" term Applegate uses could get a boost in consumers' minds when they see the third-party non-GMO seal.
Applegate seems to be demonstrating its commitment to "natural" products by consumers' definition of what that word means. A study from Consumer Reports released earlier this year found that at least 60% of consumers associated the "natural" claim with a packaged or processed food being non-GMO.