(DENVER) American Grassfed Association recently hosted a stakeholder meeting regarding the development of standards for marketing grassfed dairy products. Present at the Denver meeting were representatives from AGA’s standards and certification committee, CROPP/Organic Valley, and organic certifiers who have established one-hundred-percent grassfed claims, as well as other leading grassfed dairy producers and manufacturers, a major retailer of grassfed products, and veterinarians with specialties in dairy science. The day-long meeting was facilitated by Mark Lipson from the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems at the University of California Santa Cruz.

Rapid growth of the grassfed dairy segment and the consequent proliferation of grass- and pasture-based claims pose a challenge for producers, retailers, and consumers in the dairy industry. AGA convened the meeting to discuss mutual concerns about practices, standards, protection of legitimate claims, and avoidance of consumer confusion about grass-based products.

The goals of the meeting were threefold:

  • To determine potential for agreement on standards for grassfed dairy products;
  • To assess options for protecting the integrity of grass-based dairy product identities; and
  • To seek agreement on objectives for establishing a unified standard and market integrity.

Discussions centered on topics including animal health and nutrition, transparency of practices and claims, holistic land and soil management, support and validation for producers, and building on the Certified Organic standard while providing a bridge with non-organic grassfed claims.

The group performed a detailed comparison of existing and developing standards, including AGA’s draft grassfed dairy standard, one-hundred-percent grassfed organic programs from Pennsylvania Certified Organic and New York-Northeast Organic Farming Association, and   the CROPP/Organic Valley Grassmilk program. In addition, attendees addressed issues of industry consensus and government-based options, along with the pros and cons of different strategies.

“We feel this meeting was an important first step to develop a clear and definable industry standard that will encourage producers to develop grassfed dairy programs and also to provide assurance to consumers when they see the term “grassfed” on a carton of milk or other dairy products,” said Don Davis, chair of AGA’s standards and certification committee. “We’re looking forward to working with our colleagues as we move forward.”

Two working groups have formed, one of which will draft a merged standards document for further discussion. The other group will seek to clarify options for market integrity. Any other parties interested in the process should contact AGA for details at  dairy@americangrassfed.org or 877-774-7277. The group will reconvene soon to continue the discussion and develop next steps.