By guest blogger Carrie Balkcom, executive director for the American Grassfed Association
The explosion in the demand for grassfed meat has lead to many confusing labeling issues. Rodale.com published a starting primer of what to look for when purchasing sustainably raised grassfed meats in January of this year. To continue the education, here's some more information for you--the consumer--so you can make informed choices.
In 2007 the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) published a legal definition for the term grassfed in the federal registry, which is the government's "dictionary of terms" for labeling. The USDA's definition of grassfed does require that the animal eat a 100 percent forage-based diet, but this label does not guarantee that the animal has not been given antibiotics or added hormones. And it does not guarantee how or where the animal was fed grass. The USDA does not guarantee that the meat you are eating was produced on an American family farm (it could be foreign beef). To further confuse the issue, anyone who was using the term "grassfed" prior to the filing of the definition can continue to use the term, even if they're not following the current requirements.
As mentioned on Rodale.com, going to the farm is the ultimate way to find out for yourself how your food's being grown. It's also the most cost-effective way, since you are negotiating directly with the farm, on the farm. And it's always a great way to spend a few hours out in the country. You might get connections from the farmer to other products (cheese, milk, butter, and vegetables and fruits that you can buy locally).
For Carrie's tips on finding good grassfed beef near you, go to www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com.
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