- Meat and dairy products that are 100% grassfed are enticing to larger manufacturers as consumers fuel the growing trend. However, the industry lacks clear federal standards to regulate use of this claim on product labels.
- In December 2013, Pennsylvania Certified Organic (PCO) launched the first third-party verification program to certify grassfed dairy products in the U.S. PCO has since certified 65 producers, both farms and processors.
- The American Grassfed Association (AGA) has been certifying grassfed meat since 2009 and recently drafted a dairy-specific certification. As a result of the AGA's Grassfed Dairy Stakeholder Meeting at the start of the year, work has begun on establishing a one set of standards and ensuring market integrity.
An increasing consumer interest in grassfed meat and dairy has led to a growing number of companies using and manufacturing 100% grassfed products. Smaller companies may have brought the trend forward, but larger organic dairy brands are embracing grassfed dairy. Organic Valley attributed hitting sales of $1 billion in 2015 in part to the growth of its Grassmilk products. Whole Foods also named grassfed products a top food trend for 2016.
If grassfed meat and dairy continues to take off, this could present challenges to major meat and dairy producers like Tyson, Hormel, Dean Foods, and WhiteWave. Hormel and WhiteWave have been more adaptable by using acquisitions to stay on top of the latest trends, so they may be more likely to acquire an up-and-coming grassfed company.
With more major companies coming onboard, a federal standard would give manufacturers clearer guidelines as to what constitutes 100% grassfed label claims. It can also help protect companies from class action litigation if they use the label.
USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) already had a Grass (Forage) Fed Marketing Claim Standard, but AMS withdrew that standard in January. The agency said the ability to define such a term did not lie with AMS but instead with the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).
The need for a federal standard is underscored by the use of the term "natural." The FDA has been seeking comments for a definition of "natural" and will continue to until the extended deadline, May 10.