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 “grassfed” for ruminant animals. The definition was meant to clear up consumer confusion about what “grassfed” 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 grassfed 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 (