Grass fed claim

Grass fed claim

David Sparks Ph.D.
David Sparks Ph.D.
Up until the last decade or so, the vast majority of U.S. food shoppers mostly made our choices of what to buy based on three things. How much does it cost? Is it convenient? How does it taste?

That's it. But Andy Harig with the Food Marketing Institute told a Department of Agriculture conference awhile back that nowadays, instead of just cost convenience and taste, we're making buying choices based on a slew of claims about the items, claims we see on the labels like… Certified Humane, Natural, Certified Organic, cage-free, Free range, no added hormones, gluten free.”

And for meat,poultry and egg products: “Over the last 30 years we’ve seen a tremendous growth in the number of special statements and claims that are applied to products.” That's Jeff Canavan one of the people in the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service whose job it is to make sure all these claims we see on meat and poultry product labels are actually true. And Jeff, you get a lot of claims to check out. And again, most of them having to do with how the cows, chickens and pigs and such were raised.

“So this can include claims such as grass fed, free range, no antibiotics or raised without antibiotics and also certification claims related to how animals are raised, such as humanely raised.”

And you say most of these claims can be allowed on the labels, right? “Provided they're truthful and not misleading.

Okay. And it's Jeff's job, your job, many others in your office to determine if the claims are legit.

Before a company can introduce a product with these special claims into commerce such as grass fed, free range, no antibiotics or raised without antibiotics, they would have to submit and receive label approval. Now, the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service FSIS, obviously deals with the safety of the food every day. USDA has inspectors in every plant in the country that processes meat and poultry products. So they've got a pretty good feel for how these products are produced once the animals get to the processing plants. But the law says that FSIS is in charge of checking out claims made on the labels of those products, claims going all the way back to the farm.

“So we require certain documentation to be submitted to support the claims are again, truthful and not misleading. So if, for example, a claim such as no antibiotics administered, generally the type of information we need is a detailed written description explaining the controls used for ensuring that the claim is valid from birth to harvest.

And for some claims, there are people and groups who specialize in certifying that farms are doing what the proposed product label claims they're doing. But Jeff, you told me earlier, you guys get more and more new and interesting label claim applications all the time, right? Her. But with that verification process, you've got weak. Consumers can feel pretty confident that if there's a claim made on a meat or poultry product label, it is legitimate, has been checked out. If we suspect otherwise or have a question, we can call this number the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline. It's 1 8 8 8 M P hotline and you can talk with someone there about it. That number again, 1 888 MP hotline.

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