CANADA - A beef certification label is now available to distinguish 100 per cent grass-fed beef in Canada.
The label will apply to beef from animals fed a 100 per cent grass or forage diet and raised outdoors on range or pasture for their entire lives.
The scheme has been devised by farm welfare programme, Animal Welfare Approved (AWA), a recognised food label for meat and dairy products.
Their announcement addresses a growing desire of producers and consumers to diversify beef production and look to more sustainable alternatives to feedlot systems.
Explicit beef labelling is also expected to address confusion around current ambiguous labelling definitions.
The phrase ‘grass-fed’ has acted as an umbrella term for all Canadian cattle fed on grass and forage at any stage of production. This has included cattle finished on grass after periods on grain and cattle temporarily put on pasture in the summer.
Inadequacies in labelling have become apparent as more farmers and retailers make the grass-fed beef claim to profit from niche markets.
The new AWA programme offers a clearly labelled alternative to feedlot production, which has become increasingly marginalised by some consumers due to fears over antibiotics and growth hormones.
This stance is part of a wider move to more sustainable farming as greater focus is put on the environmental impact of trying to produce more food from fewer resources.
Colleen Briggs is the first producer to achieve the AWA grass-fed certification for her beef and lamb products reared on 10,000 acres of Alberta pasture at TK Ranch near Hanna.
Mrs Briggs said that an adequate labelling system is vital for the sector.
“There are a lot of great grassfed producers out there, but the fact that the term 'grassfed' is not regulated in Canada means that unless consumers know exactly what questions to ask, they might be buying an orange when they really wanted an apple,” said Mrs Briggs.
“We approached Animal Welfare Approved in 2012 to explore creating grass fed production standards and certification procedures and were able to create a transparent and measurable process for other grass fed producers to follow and a grass fed label that consumers can really trust.”
Programme Director at AWA, Andrew Gunther was clear that no other labels match the integrity of the new AWA grass-fed label.
He added that the rigorous standards of the scheme make the claims of the brand truly authentic.