Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Good Grass

I know you can see it coming but I have to do it anyway. In MY DAY...talk about grass quality never involved a cow and often involved a glad bag and a boy in Mokena with a Blue Chevy Van. The amount of time we were "on grass" was debatable as no records were kept and the Will County Police Department was anything but computerized. Thanking God for big favors on that one.

So, irony as it is, here I am decades later trying to decide which grass regulation agency is best and does it mater ? Maybe. Probably. Depends.

Earlier today our organic certifier, MOSA, notified us that all our paperwork from last falls organic inspection had been approved as well as our USDA Grass Fed Certification. 2011 was the first year that producers like us could opt to be inspected on both the USDA Organic Standards and USDA Grass Fed Standards at the same time.

It made fantastic sense. Our government using ONE inspector to survey two sets of USDA standards. The whole process went very well and the info we had to submit for the Grass Fed Certification was minimal. Imagine, our government working hard to condense paperwork and costs of such. I was and still am, impressed.

But, of course, I am not satisfied. What did "USDA Grass Fed Certified" really mean ? And what about the American Grassfed Association ? They certify producers as well. I've seen both labels on beef packages in the store. Were the standards the same.?

They are not, although they do have a similar starting place. To date, it is VOLUNTARY to be certified as a Grass Fed  Beef Producer. This means there is no law to prevent you from calling your beef Grass Fed even if Miss Udder Delight is fed corn morning, noon and night,  This differs widely from the National Organic standards which make it ILLEGAL ( and punishable by fines) if you label your product as Organic when it has not been certified as such. Hmmmm. Wonder if my computer skills are such that I might insert a table into my blog?

Grass Fed Standard Comparisons

USDA Grass Fed
American Grass Fed Association
National Organic Standards
Certification Requirements
Voluntary. Anyone can label their beef :Grass Fed”
Voluntary  Anyone can label their beef “Grass Fed”
Illegal to use “Organic” label unless you are certified*
Amount of time on grass
Access to grass and pasture during entire life. May be confined when growing season is over.
Lifetime Forage. No confinement at any time.
120 days per year must be on pasture
Nutrient Source
Majority to come from grass
All nutrients to come from forage or pasture
All feed must be certified organic
Anitibiotic Use
Prohibited unless animals life in danger. After use animal must be removed from the farms organic herd
Hormone Use
Inspection or Audit Fee
None. Certification based on documentation only.
Varies , Ave is $1000

Well, well, well, will wonders ever crease? Earlier today I finally learned how to substitute a single word for a whole stupid long link . For example, to read more about the American Grass Fed Standards you can go here. Cool huh?
And yet, can't seem to get the font back to original size, Criminy. Note to self. No more beer before blogging no matter how hot you get mowing.
Final thoughts (don't you wish) Seems the USDA standards for Grass Fed might look nice on your Porterhouse Steak but don't mean all that much. Your steak could still be filled with antibiotics. The Certified Organic Label is better but animals can still be confined large parts of the year. The AGF label seems to mean more, especially when COMBINED with the Organic label.

Bottom line. Labels are cute, can be meaningful,  but nothing beats a visit to the farm where your meat is raised.
         "Person-to-Person Certification" is always best


  1. Sometimes a label isn't worth the paper it's printed on.

  2. That is true! When my dad was living he raised everything for the family, well we all helped! Know I have found a farm that I can go look at what I am buying!

  3. Great post, can't wait until our market starts up again so we can support our local farmers.


  4. You wouldn't believe some of the crazy labels they've tried-out back in the UK. Basically they try to inform folk that products are BRITISH, but the PC brigade don't want to upset foreigners. Hence some very confusing logos.

  5. Like Cro says, labelling over here is a mixture of the misleading and the hilarious. My solution? Go to the local butcher and ask him. He knows all the suppliers. It won't work for everyone, but if you can and you trust them, do it.

  6. Excellent post and good job with the table! I automatically assume that any government standard is lower than those who are serious about a thing. As has been said, the best way to know what you're eating is to know your farmer.

  7. Now what I want to know is that a livestock guardian duck or a herding duck in the third picture? Maybe a border collie duck? You have an innovative farm there ;)

  8. Yep, I agree know your local farmer.

  9. I agree. Know your farmer and "meet the meat". Cheers!

  10. I have to admit that the US seems to have a long way to go to meet the Irish guidelines (European). We have such tight guidelines to follow in terms of antibiotics etc. We don't have to certify that our animals are mostly grass fed, cos, they are :) although admittedly they will be fattened for the last couple of months on meal. We have to do a carbon footprint for our beef now too, for those who buy our beef.

  11. Having said that, I detest the way meat/produce can be labelled as Irish just because it has been modified in some way here - we need serious regulation regarding that aspect of it.