In a comment submitted to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) yesterday, the Organic Trade Association (OTA) advised the agency that its proposed voluntary standard for a ‘naturally raised’ marketing claim for livestock products would only further confuse consumers.”This proposed voluntary standard, if adopted, is bound to add to consumer confusion. Consumers already do not understand ‘natural’ claims on products, and this proposal will only further muddy the waters on what such claims mean,” said Caren Wilcox, OTA’s Executive Director. “The organic label, meanwhile, covers both how animals are raised and how meat is processed, and all organic animal products sold in the U.S. must meet or exceed U.S. organic standards.”
Under the USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) definition, only minimally processed meat and poultry products containing no artificial ingredients or added colors may be labeled ‘natural.’ The FSIS definition includes NO requirements for the way the animal is raised. The proposal in question, offered by the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), would allow a ‘naturally raised’ claim on livestock products if the animals were raised without growth promoters and antibiotics and had never been fed mammalian or avian by-products. However, the AMS proposal does not address living conditions or feed requirements.
OTA pointed out that consumers will be further baffled by meat labels. Having these two contradictory definitions means a ‘natural’ meat product could have been raised under ‘unnatural’ conditions and could have been fed hormones, antibiotics and meat by-products. Likewise, a ‘naturally raised’ meat product might contain artificial flavors or colors. Neither ‘natural’ nor the proposed ‘naturally raised’ claims would require third-party verification of those claims, in contrast to the organic label.
The organic label on meat products, on the other hand, refers to how the animals were grown and processed. Certified organic producers and processors must adhere to rigorous growing and processing standards verified by a third party. Unlike the ‘natural’ or proposed ‘naturally raised’ claim, organic livestock must receive 100 percent organic feed and be raised under living conditions specified by national organic standards. Organic animals are never treated with synthetic growth hormones, receive no antibiotics, and cannot be cloned animals.
“Why create another label that will further confound consumers when there already is a very clear regulated organic label that brings an assurance that the products have been produced and processed using specific practices?” Wilcox added. To read OTA’s comment to USDA, go to http://www.ota.com/pp/otaposition/frc/naturallyraised.html.
The Organic Trade Association (OTA) is the membership-based business association for organic agriculture and products in North America. Its more than 1,650 members include growers, shippers, processors, certifiers, farmers’ associations, distributors, importers, exporters, consultants, retailers and others. OTA’s mission is to promote and protect the growth of organic trade to benefit the environment, farmers, the public and the economy.