When you are standing at a shelf in a store or browsing through options online, what is one of the most confusing things to shop for?
The answer is often food.
There are hundreds of claims on packages, including on dairy. Many of those claims mean something, but some mean little (or nothing verifiable). And when it comes to grass-fed dairy, the claims are at best confusing and at worst misleading. You don’t need that mess when you’re there in a busy store, trying to choose the best food for your family.
At Organic Valley, we recognized this was a Big Problem, and so did Maple Hill Creamery. We worked together on a Big Idea: to create a grass-fed organic standard and certification seal that everyone can trust.
To ensure open and transparent labeling, the seal is owned and administered by a third party called the Organic Plus Trust (OPT), Inc. Now, when you want organic dairy from cows that eat all grass and no grains, you can look for one seal:
What makes this different from the other “grass-fed” labels you see on the store shelf?
Other companies have flashy graphics that say something about grass somewhere, but do those words really have any power behind them? How do those companies know for sure the milk wasn’t combined with non-grass-fed milk when it was packaged? How do they know the cows are really grazing on enough fresh, green pastures to make a difference in the milk?
We are here to clear up the confusion. When you see the seal above, you can rest assured that someone physically checks to see if the cows really do get their grazing time. This new certification means there’s no funny business between when the certified grass-fed milk leaves the farm and when it’s packaged — it’s kept separate the whole way from the farm to you. With other grass-fed claims, you can’t be sure you are actually getting what you paid for.
The details of the Certified Grass-Fed Organic Livestock Program, offered by the third-party Organic Plus Trust, get a little in the weeds, but here are the basics.
For a product to be good enough to feature this clarifying seal, the farm must first be certified organic, and then must be certified to meet stringent requirements relating to grass-feeding, including the following:
- No grain, all grass
- Animal wellness checks are required
- Organic is the foundation
- Farms are grass-fed certified annually by an independent third-party
- Plenty of Pasture: minimum of 150 days per year
- End-to-end certification — from field to table
To keep their certification, the farms are audited for the grass-fed standards annually, just as they are required to do for their USDA Organic certification.
One big difference between Certified Grass-Fed Organic Dairy and other labels you see out there is that even the processing plants are inspected through the Certified Grass-fed Organic Livestock Program. For a product to have the certified grass-fed seal, it must have a full supply chain verification. This means dairy brands must be able to prove that their certified grass-fed products were segregated at all steps from the farm to processing and packaging and, therefore, are authentically grass-fed.
This new program is real! Organic Valley, Maple Hill, and many others have been working to provide integrity for grass-fed farmers and for people like you who drink the milk. There are more than a dozen independent, OPT-accredited certifiers visiting more than 340 real organic dairy farms nationwide — including all of Organic Valley’s Grassmilk® farmers. By the end of 2019, you should start seeing this seal on grocery store shelves — maybe even on your favorite grass-fed products (such as Organic Valley Grassmilk® products!). Figuring out what is really grass-fed milk will be easier than ever.
One of the farmers in our cooperative who is already certified through the program is Tucker Gretebeck, one of Organic Valley’s Grassmilk farmers from Cashton, Wisconsin. Tucker and many farmers like him have been farming this way for years, but now they have a seal that can help reinforce the value added to their milk every time a cow munches on fresh pasture.
Thank you for your support of grass-fed products, and keep an eye out for the new Certified Grass-Fed Organic Dairy seal later in 2019! It really and truly matters to farmers, cows, the environment, and your health.
Finally, grass-fed organic dairy you can trust.