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Monday, January 14, 2008

Prevent New “Naturally Raised” Label

Passing this along from our partners at the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. For more information, see:

Help prevent USDA from developing a new “naturally raised” label that would mislead consumers and undermine the vibrant markets created by sustainable livestock producers!

Please submit comments opposing USDA’s proposal by the January 28th deadline.

If USDA’s proposal goes through, livestock producers could label their meat USDA verified “naturally raised” without any concern for animal welfare or environmental stewardship and without the animals ever necessarily stepping foot on pasture. Producers would only be required to certify that their livestock were never given antibiotics, hormones, or animal byproducts.

While these proposed requirements address very important concerns, this could more simply and accurately be signaled through “no supplemental hormones added” and “no antibiotic used” labels USDA had previously proposed in conjunction with the recently approved grassfed label, and another label claim under review for “free range” and “pasture raised.” Feeding of animal byproducts could be addressed with a “no animal byproducts fed” label claim.

We support labels that are easy for consumers to interpret and that producers could use in appropriate combination to communicate with their clientele. However, should USDA’s draft proposal for a vague and non-comprehensive “naturally raised” claim proceed, consumers will be confused and consumer confidence in all USDA verified or certified labels would no doubt decline. In addition, the integrity of the markets that took decades for sustainable livestock producers to create, and upon which increasing numbers of consumers rely, would be seriously jeopardized.

It’s easy to submit your comments:

Letters: Send written comments to Naturally Raised Marketing Claim, Room 2607-S, AMS, USDA, 1400 Independence Avenue SW., Washington, DC 20250-0254 or via fax to 202-720-1112.

E-mail: To submit electronic comments, visit and type “naturally raised” in the “Comment or Submission” field. Select the “send a claim or submission” tab under the naturally raised claim title.

Important - Please Note: All Comments Must Reference “Docket No. LS-07-16” by writing at the top of the letter or email “Re: Docket No. LS-07-16”

Also: Be sure to include your name, address, and if appropriate, affiliation(s) and/or interest(s) in the issue.

Remember: The public comment deadline is January 28, 2008.

Some possible talking points to choose from and put in your own words in your comment letter to USDA:

The proposed “naturally raised” standard fails to address many of the high standards consumers expect from sustainable livestock production, including animal welfare, access to pasture, and conservation and environmental requirements. Quite simply, the “naturally raised” label as proposed would not mean what consumers would think it implies and should be abandoned.

The naturally raised label claim would completely defeat a very important purpose of providing the label in the first place -- to provide clear and reliable signals to consumers who want to make informed, environmentally-friendly, and healthy choices about their food purchases.

Hormone and antibiotic supplementation, and the use of animal byproducts as a feed source, are extremely important issues that should be succinctly and accurately addressed through individual labeling claim standards. USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service had previously proposed the development of “no antibiotics used” and “no supplemental hormones used” labels, both of which would provide clear and reliable signals to consumers. USDA should move immediately to issue these clear and unambiguous label claims rather than issuing a misleading and vague naturally raised label claim.

The implementation of a “naturally raised” claim would further mislead consumers who are already uncertain and skeptical about the meaning of the “natural” label claim currently overseen by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). The natural claim refers to processing of meat whereas the naturally raised claim refers to the production of livestock. The implementation of two distinct claims, both using the term “natural” yet addressing completely distinct issues and administered by two separate agencies, will create confusion for consumers and farmers alike.

Please personalize your message and include any additional points you would like to offer.

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