- The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) of the USDA withdrew the Grass (Forage) Fed Marketing Claim Standard and Naturally Raised Marketing Claim Standard, effective Jan. 12, 2016.
- AMS said in its notice that the agency does not have the ability to define "grass-fed" or "naturally raised" standards, and that role lies with the the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), so "it is inappropriate for the agency to offer it as an AMS-defined marketing claim."
- "The authority over production/marketing claim verification and food labeling approval presents challenges to companies wishing to market USDA-verified production/marketing claims on food labels, because there is no guarantee that an USDA-verified production/marketing claim will be approved by FSIS or FDA," AMS said in its notice.
According to the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), AMS's decision makes purchasing decisions even more confusing for consumers who came to rely on the USDA grass-fed label. Meat producers suffer from not being able to communicate their grass-fed claims in the same trusted way as before. NSAC feels miscommunication between the two agencies is to blame, not the labels themselves.
" ... It is both sad and true that these two USDA agencies often do not coordinate, and worse yet that in some cases FSIS has looked the other way, allowing particularly unscrupulous meat companies to abuse the USDA standard," according to Ferd Hoefner, policy director for NSAC, in a statement. "But the common sense solution is not to revoke the standard, but instead to tackle siloing and lack of interagency communication head-on."
In the meantime, meat producers who used the AMS standard now have 30 days to use another recognized grass-fed standard, which means they can either "establish their own grass-fed definition or reference an established grass-fed standard," according to the notice.
This coincides with the launch of MyMeatUp.org from the North American Meat Institute, aimed at providing consumers with more transparency.