In the day after the conclusion of what has been an incredibly divisive election season, we at AGW want to take this opportunity to celebrate the values we share in common, and reaffirm our commitment to our farmers and supporters. Regardless of your stance on the final outcome of the U.S. election, through our programmatic work and family of certifications, AGW has been—and will continue to be—the following:
Hurricane Matthew, which devastated Haiti on its way to the United States, caused significant damage and casualties across Florida, South Carolina and Georgia. But it hit North Carolina hard, with the flooding resulting in at least 17 deaths in the state and stranding over 1,500 people. Some of the hardest hit were family farmers, particularly in rural areas. According to the National Weather Service, the damage isn’t over yet: Major flooding could continue into next week.
A Greener World, which operates the Animal Welfare Approved, Certified Grassfed by AGW and Certified Non-GMO by AGW labels, has already received many urgent requests for help from farmers who have lost livestock, barns and shelter, tons of feed and essential equipment. Many are still without power. We expect the number to grow as people are able to return to affected areas and truly assess the damage.
There’s been a lot of talk lately about the environmental and animal welfare impacts of animal agriculture. First we were told to avoid processed meat; then we learned beef was the new villain; and now ALL meat is being vilified as bad for human health, animal welfare and the planet.
But is meat’s bad rap really deserved? While it’s great to see more people talking about the impact of our diets on the planet and animal welfare, encouraging the world to go meat-free misses the point entirely. Here’s why:
After years of delays, the U.S. National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) has finally agreed the organic standards should encompass the treatment and welfare of animals. The big question is: will the proposed welfare standards actually change anything?
As detailed in the National Organic Program’s (NOP) Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices, the proposed welfare standards would introduce a range of new requirements on the living conditions of organic animals, including transportation, slaughter and minimum indoor and outdoor space requirements. The proposals are intended to address what many see as a long-standing—and gaping—hole in the U.S. organic standards concerning the welfare of animals on organic farms, not to mention the huge shortcoming in consumer expectations of what the “organic” label actually stands for.
At A Greener World, we’re always looking for positive solutions to help fix our food system, as well as ways to give farmers and ranchers the practical support and guidance they need to transition towards sustainable, pasture-based livestock production. Well, we have some exciting news to announce…
Farm Health Online is a powerful new website, offering free and immediate access to practical, science-based advice on positive livestock management and sustainable farming practices for cattle, sheep, poultry, and pigs, with comprehensive information on over 100 common livestock diseases, best practices on nutrition, housing, breeding and husbandry—and much more!
On January 11, the Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced it had withdrawn its Grassfed Standard used in livestock and meat marketing due to lack of a clear congressional mandate to maintain it.
At A Greener World, we have long highlighted the major deficiencies in the USDA grassfed label claim (see The Grassfed Primer, page 5). For example, under this standard farmers could confine cattle on dirt feedlots for long periods outside the grass growing season, or use growth hormones and subtherapeutic antibiotics, and still market their beef under the USDA grassfed label claim–just as long as they fed the animals ‘cut grass or forage.’ Yet despite these clear limitations, we recognize the USDA grassfed standard at least provided a minimum baseline in the market.
We therefore believe the removal of the USDA grassfed standard will lead to significant confusion in the marketplace about grassfed label claims, and could allow unscrupulous operations to market meat or dairy products as “grassfed” when their production methods do not even meet the previous low requirements of the USDA standards, potentially eroding consumer trust in all grassfed label claims.
We face huge challenges in feeding the world sustainably. But one thing is certain: Grazing ruminant livestock—and the high-quality food they produce—can and should play a key role.
With ongoing reports and media headlines about the negative impacts of livestock—particularly beef cattle—on the environment and our health, this might seem like an unscientific statement. After all, livestock are now widely considered to be unsustainable. So it might come as a surprise to know this support for grazing ruminants was one of the key conclusions from the first International Conference on Steps to Sustainable Livestock—a ground-breaking multi-disciplinary event involving leading scientists working to find solutions for global food security, hosted by the Global Farm Platform and University of Bristol Cabot Institute in Bristol, UK, on January 12-15, 2016.
High-welfare, sustainably-produced beef isn’t just better for the animals or the planet: Consumer Reports’ recent tests on ground beef proves it’s safer for us, too.
In one of the largest like-for-like comparison test of its kind, the widely respected Consumer Reports found that conventional ground beef is twice as likely to contain potentially life-threatening antibiotic-resistant ‘superbugs’ than ground beef from sustainably-raised cattle, and three times as likely when compared to ground beef from cattle raised outdoors on an entirely grassfed diet.
The way we farm and feed ourselves is a hot topic right now—and so it should be. While many of us have access to an abundance of so-called “cheap” food, it turns out that it’s not as “cheap” as we might think. All the evidence suggests that industrial farming is damaging our health, animals, and the planet we share. Hardly a day goes by without a food- or farming-related headline—whether it’s “Pink Slime” in our meals, obesity and diet-related ill health, the abuse of antibiotics in meat production, or belching cattle warming the planet.