Wendy Johnson and Johnny Rafkin own Jóia Food Farm near Charles City in northeast Iowa,…
The United States Department of Agriculture has recently approved imports of Irish beef making grassfed claims based on criteria including “More than 80% grass diet” and “Pasture for more than 6/7/8 months per year.” In response, A Greener World–North America’s leading sustainability certifier–is asking U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to consider the impact of this decision on the fledgling U.S. grassfed market and to ensure transparency for farmers and consumers.
Read our full statement below:
June 30, 2017
The Honorable Sonny Perdue
Secretary of Agriculture
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave., S.W.
Washington, DC 20250
Dear Mr. Secretary,
As North America’s leading sustainability certifier, A Greener World identifies, audits, certifies and promotes practical, sustainable farming systems by supporting farmers and ranchers and informing consumers. Our growing family of trusted certifications includes Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW, Certified Grassfed by AGW and Certified Non-GMO by AGW , and each program is designed to have positive and measurable impacts on the environment, society and animals, and to encourage truly sustainable farming practices. We are working with over 1,500 farms and ranches across 3 million acres, and are proud of the work our producers have done to establish the gold standard for transparency and sustainability in American agriculture. As a third-party certification program trusted by consumers nationwide, we are following the decision to approve imports of Irish grassfed beef with great interest.
In reviewing the new approval of the developing Irish grassfed beef program, we are pleased to see the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recognition of the ability to use antibiotics responsibly. As the threat of antibiotic resistance grows, consumers are increasingly–and understandably–demanding an end to subtherapeutic use (administering antibiotics routinely at non-therapeutic doses to compensate for unhealthy living conditions)–a practice we at A Greener World have prohibited since our flagship certification, Animal Welfare Approved, launched in 2006. We further applaud your recognition of the importance of third-party validation in substantiating claims, and hope to see this continue in keeping with the expectations of the majority of American consumers.
However, as the leading certifier of grassfed beef in North America, we know that consumers do not expect beef labeled as “grassfed” to come from animals fed anything other than grass. While the stated claim of 80% is remarkably transparent and speaks to the integrity of the certifier (Bord Bia, the Irish government’s agriculture trade development and promotion body), this is not in keeping with consumer expectations for a “grassfed” claim. Further, it appears likely that this percentage could be hidden on a website and not readily apparent at point of purchase. The stated requirement of only 6/7/8 months on pasture is even more out of step with what consumers expect from “grassfed” systems.
As leaders in transparent labeling, we object to the assault on the integrity of the “grassfed” claim that a percentage hidden on a website would represent. To ensure the stability of this important market we respectfully request that the USDA ensure truly transparent labeling forall grassfed beef marketed in the U.S. Further, if products from animals which are not 100% grassfed are permitted to be marketed as “grassfed,” we request that the percentage be stated clearly, noticeably and unambiguously on the package at point of purchase. To hide this crucial information on a website is disingenuous, undermines farmers and ranchers in the U.S. and around the world, and misleads consumers.
The U.S. agriculture and food industry could learn a lot from the innovative embrace of third-party certification seen in Ireland and elsewhere across the globe. More and more companies are discovering the benefits of transparency and accountability in building loyal customers and solid supply chains. The USDA has an opportunity to join in this growing market and take a leading role, but will only achieve success through a genuine commitment to transparent labeling.
Director of Communications and Outreach
A Greener World
PO Box 115
Terrebonne, OR 97760