US Naturally Raised Beef Standards - Meaningless As Proposed

With feed-grain prices escalating due to government ethanol production incentives, commodity beef producers are all scrambling to control their input costs. However, since "organic beef" producers are not sending their cows to be doped up and corn-fattened in feed lots, they, at last, are moving toward a competitive edge on price. What's a factory rancher to do to keep the corn costs in control and compete on brand image? Label the beef "Natural," of course.

US Department of Agriculture, through the Agricultural Marketing Service has issued a proposed voluntary standard for achieving this "Natural Beef" label back in January of 2007. Must have 'gored someones' ox' with it because the comment period was extended to March 3, 2008. Review is underway. Here's a taste of it.

AMS is proposing that animals that have been naturally raised have been raised without growth promotants and antibiotics and have never been fed mammalian or avian by-products.
That would be the good news. The bad news is no one would be held accountable, and it is non-uniform.
The proposed standard for a naturally raised marketing claim, if adopted, would be part of the voluntary U.S. Standards for Livestock and Meat Marketing Claims which may be used in conjunction with a USDA QSVP, and naturally raised marketing claims may be verified, as provided in 7 CFR Part 62. However, since this would be a voluntary marketing claim, if adopted, [Food Safety and Inspection Service] FSIS would not establish a new provision limiting the use of the term naturally raised to labels in which participants meet this standard with a USDA QSVP.

As this reads, it is sure to confuse everyone involved. Seems like there are two definitions of "Natural Beef." One is what non-organic ranchers, feedlots, and processers have been doing, and the other is what USDA "suggests" they should do.

To meet the growing consumer demand, U.S. meat and poultry companies have developed and marketed ``natural'' meat and meat products. An AMS naturally raised marketing claim standard, if adopted, would remain independent of the FSIS use of the term ``natural'' and would separate claims about livestock production practices on product labeling.

Labeling anything for health or environmental reasons in the USA is such a black hole. The only reason that the term "organic" has any meaning at all here is that the original organic producers flew under the lobbyist radar for so long - sort of sneaking up on the market share that they worked so hard for. Now that the lobbyists have caught onto how serious consumer demand is for greener foods and products, common sense is out the door.

Thank goodness we have the established Organic label and farm markets featuring people who make their own labels that make sense. Lets keep them that way.

Via::USDA, United States Standards for Livestock and Meat Marketing Claims, Naturally Raised Claim for Livestock and the Meat and Meat Products Derived From Such Livestock, Image credit::Times Union, Eat Local, Farm Market point of sales sign "Natural Beef, Local & Source Verified,..." etc.

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