USDA Does Switcheroo with Grass Fed Label Standard

Publish Date: Winter 2016

In 2007, after years of false starts and a lot of public input, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) published a definition of “grass-fed” for ruminant animals. The definition was meant to clear up consumer confusion about what “grass-fed” on meat labels actually meant: that the lifetime feed be 100% grass and grass-based forage. USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) was supposed to use that definition when approving meat label claims.

Last week, AMS announced that it was withdrawing the grass-fed definition, claiming that defining such terms wasn’t really its job after all. The agency will no longer offer their grass-fed label standard or the naturally raised label standard for meat products. From now on,

USDA-FSIS will oversee the definition as part of its job to approve label claims. Producers will develop their own grass-fed standard and use voluntary USDA-Certified or USDA¬ Verified programs to verify compliance with the standards they’ve developed.

However, it isn’t entirely clear how that will play out (and if the “100%” part will hold), so we will continue to track the issue and post updates on our Small Farms Facebook page.

 For more information, read the USDA Notice of Withdrawal ( and this press release by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (