American Grass Fed Certification Now Assures the Highest Quality for Beef and Dairy Products


Editor’s Note: This article is a reprint. It was initially printed February 7, 2017.

You’re most likely conscious that the meals {industry} has the facility to affect your consuming habits via the usage of promoting and lobbying for industry-friendly rules. But do you know the U.S. authorities truly funds a few of these actions via the gathering and distribution of taxes on sure meals?

And that by doing so, the federal government is actively supporting agricultural programs which might be opposed to public and environmental well being, and discouraging the adoption of more healthy and extra ecologically sound farming programs?

The beef {industry} particularly seems to be rife with corruption aimed toward defending huge factory-style enterprise moderately than the up-and-coming grass fed {industry}. As defined in Washington Monthly:1

“Imagine if the federal authorities mandated {that a} portion of all federal gasoline taxes go on to the oil {industry}’s commerce affiliation, the American Petroleum Institute [API].

Imagine additional that API used this public cash to finance advert campaigns encouraging folks to drive extra and switch up their thermostats, all whereas lobbying to discredit oil {industry} critics … That’s a deal not even Exxon might pull off, but the nation’s largest meat-packers now get pleasure from one thing fairly prefer it.

[W]hen you purchase a Big Mac or a T-bone, a portion of the fee is a tax on beef, the proceeds from which the federal government fingers over to a personal commerce group known as the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association [NCBA].

The NCBA in flip makes use of this public cash to purchase adverts encouraging you to eat extra beef, whereas additionally lobbying to derail animal rights and different agricultural reform activists, defeat meat labeling necessities and defend the continuing consolidation of the {industry}.”

Federal Tax Helps Beef Industry Promote Beef

In a nutshell, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) beef checkoff program2 is a compulsory program that requires cattle producers to pay a $1 price per head of cattle bought.

It’s principally a federal tax on cattle, however the cash would not go to the federal government however to state beef councils, the nationwide Cattlemen’s Beef Board (CBB) and the NCBA. All of those organizations are clearly biased towards the concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) mannequin.

The cash is collected by state beef councils, which maintain half and ship the opposite half of the funds to the nationwide CBB, headquartered in Colorado, which is in control of the nationwide beef promotion marketing campaign. Nationwide, the meat checkoff charges add as much as about $80 million yearly.

As the first contractor for the checkoff program, the NCBA receives a majority of the checkoff proceeds, which is used for analysis and promotion of beef.

But whereas the meat checkoff program started with the perfect of intentions, aiming to assist struggling ranchers by pooling their cash to pay for the promotion of beef, discontent over how the cash is getting used has grown through the years.

Checkoff Program No Longer Benefits Small Ranchers — It Harms Them

Many cattle ranchers really feel they’re being compelled to pay for actions that go towards their environmental or moral views on animal welfare and environmental stewardship, for instance. Moreover, whereas being a federal tax, the federal government has just about no oversight over how this checkoff cash is used. As reported by Harvest Public Media:3

“Checkoff officers say … each greenback collected by the checkoff delivers $11.20 in return. Among its successes is a sequence of iconic commercials known as ‘Beef, it is what’s for dinner.’ But there may be much more to the meat checkoff than meets the attention. That $1 evaluation, critics … say, flows with restricted oversight to state and nationwide pursuits.

Sellers should pay even when they do not imagine they’ve any say over who will get the cash, or why. And they have to pay even when they imagine the fund advances the pursuits of multi-millionaire ranchers towards their very own …

As many as a fourth of the nation’s 730,000 ranchers … have complained for years that the checkoff has change into a billion-dollar bonanza for large ranchers, {industry} executives and large beef packers. Federal statistics present bigger extra environment friendly cattle operations are forcing out smaller ranchers and feedlots.”

One living proof: When a commerce grievance was filed towards Mexico in 2014, NCBA opposed anti-trust enforcement towards the three multinational firms that management greater than 80% of the meat packing {industry}.

The NCBA additionally helps the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which permits for low-cost beef imports, thereby undercutting American ranchers.4

What’s Good for Large Meatpackers Often Hurts Small Ranchers

Also, because the $1 per head price is remitted by federal regulation, checkoff funds aren’t allowed for use for lobbying or political contributions. However, critics have argued that each state beef councils and the nationwide beef board have sturdy ties to beef {industry} lobbying teams — a few of them even share workplace area.5

At the nationwide degree, a majority of the checkoff cash will get funneled into the NCBA, which has a powerful political voice within the Washington D.C., the place it has spent thousands and thousands in marketing campaign contributions and lobbying efforts. According to Harvest Public Media:6

“In the 2014 mid-term elections alone, the NCBA gave almost $800,000 to primarily Republican political candidates … That quantities to greater than 98% of whole checkoff income and 82% of NCBA’s whole finances, in response to a latest lawsuit filed by small producers …

That similar lawsuit claims that the NCBA controls half the seats on the meat checkoff’s contracting committee. ‘I feel it’s a damaged system,’ mentioned Wil Bledsoe, president of the Colorado Independent Cattle Growers Association …

‘I do not need them utilizing my cash to struggle my livelihood like they’ve been,’ he mentioned. ‘What’s good for packers is not often good for the little man, and vice versa. So how can they declare to characterize each?’

… And authorities screens overseeing this system are conscious of the issues, mentioned one former U.S. Department of Agriculture official.

‘The administration is nicely conscious that the NCBA has misappropriated producer cash and the NCBA has helped defeat coverage reforms that may have helped small producers,’ mentioned Dudley Butler, who resigned as a high USDA official in 2012. Butler, a lawyer, says the checkoff is nothing greater than an ‘unlawful cattle tax.'”

The Livestock Marketing Association (LMA) has been calling for the USDA to carry a referendum on the attainable termination of the meat checkoff, and greater than 146,000 cattle ranchers have signed the petition.7

In 2001, the nationwide checkoff program for pork was terminated by a nationwide referendum that happened in late 2000,8 however, because the Des Moines Register bluntly put it:9

“The USDA ignored the vote. Instead, it created the National Pork Producers Council and diverted the cash into that — the place it’s used to foyer for company hog pursuits. What meaning is that the checkoff now funds lobbying to help hog confinements which might be damaging our water provides and our surroundings at the price of household hog farmers who proceed to be squeezed out of the enterprise.”

So, nonetheless to at the present time the struggle to terminate this system continues.

Beef Council Accountant Investigated for Embezzlement

Misuse of checkoff funds just isn’t the one downside ranchers are railing towards. In the meat {industry}, federal authorities started investigating embezzlement prices towards Melissa Morton, a former Oklahoma Beef Council accounting and compliance supervisor,10 in response to the council’s personal inner investigation $2.6 million allegedly got here up lacking beneath Morton’s watch. As reported by the Cornucopia Institute:

“In 2014, in response to the council’s newest federal tax data, the group took in $3.6 million in income. That similar yr the compliance supervisor allegedly embezzled $316,231, almost 9% of the state beef council’s annual income.”

In 2016, Morton allegedly solid 131 checks totaling almost $557,790. According to Mike Callicrate, a cattleman and founding member of the Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM), information of the embezzlement added to “the suspicion that … our greenbacks aren’t being utilized in a means that truly advantages the cowboy that is paying the meat checkoff.”

Embezzlement apart, critics have additionally identified the exorbitant salaries collected by NCBA administration — salaries paid for by checkoff {dollars} collected from ranchers. In a 2015 article, California cattleman Lee Pitts wrote:11

“… [T]he final information I used to be aware about concerning the wage of NCBA’s CEO, Forrest Roberts, was from his 2013 federal tax kinds when he was paid $428,319. That’s extravagant sufficient however in response to a Cattleman’s Beef Board huge wig who known as me, Mr. Roberts is now allegedly making $550,000 per yr!

… I would not have an issue if Mr. Roberts was being paid with NCBA dues cash, that is their cash and allow them to spend it how they need. But in response to my supply, 72% of Robert’s wage is paid by the meat checkoff as a result of that is how a lot time the NCBA says he spends on checkoff issues. 72%!

The NCBA positive could not pay that form of a wage in the event that they needed to dwell off dues, now might they? … According to at least one supply, there are at the least 10 folks working for the checkoff who’re making greater than $290,000 per yr! NCBA paid out $13 million in yearly salaries and 82% of NCBA’s finances comes out of your checkoff {dollars}.”

Checkoff Funds Used to Promote International Beef

Last yr, the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF USA) filed a lawsuit towards the USDA, claiming the meat checkoff tax is “being unconstitutionally used to advertise worldwide beef, to the detriment of U.S. beef merchandise and producers.”12 According to R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard:

“The Checkoff’s implied message that every one beef is equal, no matter the place the cattle are born or how they’re raised, harms U.S. farmers and ranchers and deceives U.S. residents.

Despite what we all know to be clear proof concerning the prime quality of beef raised by unbiased U.S. cattlemen, we’re being taxed to advertise a message that beef raised with out the strict requirements utilized by our members is identical as all different beef, a message we don’t help and don’t agree with.”

R-CALF USA’s co-counsel J. Dudley Butler of the Butler Farm & Ranch Law Group PLLC, added: “This just isn’t solely a battle to guard constitutional rights however a battle to make sure that our meals provide just isn’t corralled and constrained by multi-national firms leaving unbiased farmers and ranchers as mere serfs on their very own land.”

The lawsuit was filed in response to Montana Beef Council’s advert marketing campaign for Wendy’s — a quick meals chain whose hamburgers can comprise meat originating in 41 completely different international locations. The NCBA additionally has a historical past of selling beef, no matter origin, which is a big detriment to the ranchers paying the checkoff charges that pay for all this promoting and advertising.

The NCBA promotes the concept “beef is beef, whether or not the cattle had been born in Montana, Manitoba or Mazatlán” and, becoming a member of forces with commerce teams representing each nationwide and worldwide meat-packers, the NCBA additionally fought towards the USDA’s implementation of country-of-origin labeling (COOL), and has been tireless in its opposition towards demand for increased requirements within the remedy of animals.

Pitts’ article additionally factors out that NCBA’s CEO has clear conflicts of curiosity that coloration the group’s stance on issues like the usage of veterinary medication. Prior to turning into the CEO of NCBA, Roberts held advertising and gross sales positions with Upjohn Animal Health (which merged with Pharmacia Animal Health and later Pfizer Animal Health) and Elanco Animal Health’s beef enterprise unit.

“Gee, do you assume he could be a bit prejudiced with regards to antibiotics, hormones and pure versus chemically produced beef?” Pitts writes.13

Great News: Grass Fed Dairy Standard Introduced!

Fortunately, you needn’t fear as there may be another certification that can bypass most of this nonsense. The American Grassfed Association (AGA) launched much-needed grass fed requirements and certification for American-grown grass fed dairy,14 which can permit for better transparency and conformity.

Prior to this certification, dairy could possibly be bought as “grass fed” whether or not the cows ate solely grass, or acquired silage, hay and even grains throughout sure occasions. As reported by Organic Authority:15

“The new rules are the product of a yr’s value of collaboration amongst dairy producers like Organic Valley in addition to certifiers like Pennsylvania Certified Organic and a workforce of scientists.

‘We got here up with a typical that is good for the animals, that satisfies what shoppers need and count on once they see grass consumed the label, and that’s economically possible for farmers,’ says AGA’s communications director Marilyn Noble of the brand new rules.

The customary will probably be launched formally in February on the American Grassfed Association’s annual producer convention on the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in New York State, although the precise begin date for certification stays to be decided.”

Considering how essential a cow’s weight loss program is with regards to the standard of its milk, particularly once we’re speaking about RAW milk, I might strongly advise you to make sure your uncooked dairy is AGA licensed as grass fed (as soon as the certification turns into formally accessible).

AGA grass fed label

USDA Grass Fed Beef Label Rescinded

Also make sure to search for the AGA’s grass fed label when shopping for grass fed meats, as in January 2016, the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) rescinded its official requirements for the grass fed beef declare.16 According to the AMS, a overview of its authority discovered the company doesn’t have the authority to develop and keep advertising requirements, therefore it needed to remove its definition of “grass fed.”

The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), which approves meat labels usually, nonetheless approves grass fed label claims. However, producers of grass fed meats are free to outline their very own requirements. According to the AGA, “FSIS is just contemplating the feeding protocol of their label approvals — different points equivalent to confinement; use of antibiotics and hormones; and the supply of the animals, meat and dairy merchandise will probably be left as much as the producer.”

In different phrases, a producer of “grass fed beef” might theoretically confine the animals and feed them antibiotics and hormones and nonetheless put a grass fed label on the meat so long as the animals had been additionally fed grass. As famous by the AGA on the time:17

“The unlucky factor for producers who’ve labored laborious to construct high quality grass fed packages is that, with no widespread requirements in place, they are going to be competing within the market with the economic meatpackers who can co-opt the grass fed label.

Once once more, shoppers lose out on transparency and an understanding of what they’re shopping for. Grass fed has all the time been a supply of some confusion, however not, with no widespread requirements underpinning it, shoppers will discover it more and more troublesome to belief the grass fed label.

Like different largely meaningless label phrases like pure, cage-free and free-range, grass fed will change into simply one other feel-good advertising ploy utilized by the foremost meatpackers to dupe shoppers into shopping for mass-produced, grain-fed feedlot meat.”

When Buying Grass Fed Meat, Look for the AGA Grass Fed Label

On the upside, the AGA grass fed requirements are extra complete and extra stringent than the AMS requirements had been. So, to make sure you’re truly getting high-quality grass fed beef, make sure to search for the AGA grass fed label in your beef in addition to your dairy. No different grass fed certification provides the identical complete assurances because the AGA’s grass fed label, and no different grass fed program ensures compliance utilizing third-party audits.

Alternatively, get to know your native farmer and discover out first-hand how he raises his cattle. Many are very happy to provide you a tour and clarify the small print of their operation. Barring such face-to-face communication, the AGA grass fed emblem is the one one capable of assure that the meat comes from animals that:

  • Have been fed a 100% forage weight loss program
  • Have by no means been confined in a feedlot
  • Have by no means acquired antibiotics or hormones
  • Were born and raised on American household farms (a overwhelming majority of the grass fed meats bought in grocery shops are imported, and with out COOL labeling, there is not any telling the place it got here from or what requirements had been adopted)


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here