Grass Fed Meat Standards Announced

Release Date: 



Traci Bruckner, Center for Rural Affairs, (402) 687-2103 ext 1016 or John Crabtree, Center for Rural Affairs, (402) 687-2103 ext 1010
LYONS, NE – Yesterday the USDA announced the final regulations for a grass-fed meat label. The standard is now a 100% grass based diet compared to the 2002 proposed standard of an 80% grass based diet.
USDA’s final administrative rule requires that animals marketed under the long awaited “grass-fed” label must have a diet throughout their lifespan (with the exception of milk consumed prior to weaning) that is solely derived from forage which includes grass, forbs, and browse or cereal grain crops in the vegetative pre-grain state. Animals cannot be fed grain or grain byproducts and must have continuous access to pasture during the growing season.

“This standard is much improved and a victory for the family farmers and ranchers that have pioneered the grass-fed market.  We applaud USDA for listening to their concerns and for creating a strict 100% standard,” said Traci Bruckner, Assistant Director of the Rural Policy Program of the Center for Rural Affairs.

The Center for Rural Affairs partnered with long time Nebraska grass-fed producers and advocates such as Chuck and Bev Henkel of Norfolk, NE; Tom German of Holstein, IA; and Terry Gompert of Center, NE to host a farm tour demonstrating what a 100% grass-based system entails and even traveling to Washington, DC to lobby USDA to dramatically improve the final rule.  The input from these producers and others across the country was instrumental in achieving the stricter standard that was necessary to protect the grass-fed market that family farmers and ranchers worked for years to establish.

“This is a voluntary label and it is important to have a strict standard. It’s imperative for ranchers to be able to grow their market and it’s essential that this market not be undermined by large corporate farms that could come in and weaken the standard and sell their inferior product on the cheap, thereby stealing the growth potential that the market holds for the farmers and ranchers that have created it,” said Bruckner.

For meat producers to be verified 100% grass fed, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) will complete an audit of the production process. The producer must be able to verify for AMS that the grass marketing claim standard requirements are being met through a detailed documented quality management system. For more information visit: . Or call Traci Bruckner at the Center for Rural Affairs at (402) 687-2103 ext. 1016.


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