In simple terms, the Certified Grassfed label ensures that all animals must have ample time outside, be fed only grass, and be treated with the highest degree of animal welfare standards. Today’s story is all about Certified Grassfed by AGW.
Welcome back to Know Your Label (KYL)! This week we’ll continue our journey into the legitimacy, relevance, and history of the food certifications and claims you encounter when shopping for your groceries.
AGW Certified Grassfed
A Greener World (AGW) was founded to promote and support sustainable livestock farming practices. Their mission is the following:
Promote agricultural practices that have a positive impact on the animals and environment.
Educate consumers about the impact of their purchasing behaviors on the environment and animals.
Establish and promote farm certifications.
Support independent farmers and ranchers committed to the production of sustainable livestock.
With these goals in mind, AGW offers four different certifications: Certified Grassfed, Certified Organic, Certified Non-GMO, and Certified Animal Welfare Approved. Our focus today is on Certified Grassfed; their other certifications will be covered in subsequent issues of KYL, so stay tuned!
According to AGW’s website, “Certified Grassfed by AGW is the only certification and logo in the U.S. and Canada that guarantees food products come from animals fed a 100 percent grass and forage diet, raised outdoors on pasture or range and managed according to the highest welfare and environmental standards on an independent farm," (A Greener World). In simple terms, this means that all animals must predominantly live outside (animals have access to an indoor space), be fed only grass, and be treated with the highest degree of animal welfare standards.
First and foremost, it is important to point out that this certification is an additional accreditation for livestock that are “Certified Animal Welfare Approved”. Only farmers that already meet high animal welfare and environmental standards will are considered for this certification.
Second, this certification uses a holistic birth to slaughter model, meaning that all stages of the life cycle through the slaughter process must follow regulations and be approved.
Third, audits are performed annually by certified AGW auditors.
Only certain animals can be certified under this label - beef and dairy cattle, bison, meat and dairy goats, and meat and dairy sheep. These ruminants have unique digestive systems that make it possible for the digestion of grass and forage to provide all of the nutrition needed. Other animals such as chicken do not fit this criteria.
There is a $100 annual accreditation fee for this certificate, which gives farmers and ranchers in the program access to various forms of support. There are no additional fees for audits or for use of the label.
Animals must have a body condition score (measure of how fat or thin an animal is based on a standardized scale) of either a 4 or above (on a 1-9 scale) or a 2 or above (on a 1-5 scale) depending on which scale used.
The diet of grassfed animals must be acquired solely from grass and forage throughout the animals’ lives, except for milk consumed prior to weaning.
Mineral and vitamin supplements fed to the animals must not include prohibited materials such as urea.
Any inadvertent exposure to non-forage feed or non-forage based supplements must be recorded, including identification of animals that consumed the illegal feed or supplement.
Records must be maintained for each animal from birth to slaughter.
Please note that this list of standards is not exhaustive, and that additional standards are required for dairy cows. All of the requirements of Certified Animal Welfare Approved must also be upheld. For more information about the specific standards, check out AGW’s website.
As with both of the other labels (Certified Organic and Certified Naturally Grown) that we have reviewed in this series, there is no way to always know what is happening at any certified farm on any given day. However, because of the stringent requirements and emphasis on animal welfare, this certification is greatly valued by animal rights and environmental groups. GreenerChoices, a division of Consumer Reports focused on the health of people and the planet, calls this certification “highly meaningful”. Green America, an organization dedicated to the green economy of the planet, rates Certified Grassfed 5 stars for Animal Concerns. Even the ASPCA notes the thoroughness of Animal Welfare Approved, which Certified Grassfed builds upon.
While Certified Grassfed is not a tell-all about the true nature of the product, provides great insight into your meat products.
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GC Content Writer: Marissa Lazaroff