Iowa Public Television


Ranchers Want Label for Their Grass-fed Beef

posted on September 8, 2006

Late this week, South Korea -- America's third-largest beef export market -- lifted a ban on U.S. beef products that had been in place since 2003. South Korea made its decision after visiting 36 U.S. packing plants and certifying them as safe. The move serves as one more example of the dizzying array of regulations confronting livestock producers. Sometimes though, the regulations and the certification that comes with them, help farmers and ranchers add value to their products. That's why some producers have asked the government for an official definition of "grass-fed beef." But getting the designation hasn't been easy.

Ranchers Want Label for Their Grass-fed Beef

How much grass does a grass-fed cow have to consume to have the beef be officially labeled as "grass-fed"?

The Agriculture Department has proposed a standard for grass-fed meat, but critics say the proposal is so loose that it would let more conventional cattle operators use the label.

USDA officials say the current proposal states that 99 percent, of a cow's diet come from grass forage. Forage was defined to include leftover corn stalks from harvest and silage.

Officials say they are reluctant to regulate a cow's time spent grazing because some parts of the country might suffer weather extremes that stress pastures.

Demand for grass-fed meat is increasing and so is the number of grass-fed producers. Figures from the American Grassfed Association say the number of farms has grown from about 40 seven years ago to around 1,000 today.

USDA has worked to come up with standards defining "grass-fed" since the late 1990s. Officials proposed standards in 2002 and again this year.

The deadline for comment on the USDA proposal was last month. The Agriculture Department says there is no set timeline on when the final marketing claim standard for grass-fed meat will be published.


Tags: agriculture animals beef cattle farmers meat news