The words on the milk carton say “pasture-raised” or “grassfed.” But can you trust that the cows that produced your milk (or butter or yogurt) weren’t also fed grain, or even GMO grain, at some point?
As the market for organic and grassfed milk soars, so does the potential for brands to mislead consumers. That’s why the American Grassfed Association (AGA) has created new standards specifically for grassfed dairy products—standards that certifiers will soon begin using in order give consumers clarity and peace of mind when trying to sort through the often-confusing landscape of consumer product labeling. (AGA has offered a separate grass-fed meat certification program in the U.S. since 2009).
What does it mean if your milk or butter is certified to AGA standards? In a nutshell, it means the cows that produced those products were fed a strict diet based on open pasture, animal health and welfare, no antibiotics, no added hormones. The AGA standard includes detailed directions for the minimum number of days that cattle must spend outside each season, based on climate and geography.Feeding grain in any form, even as a carrier for mineral and vitamin supplements, is strictly forbidden. Producers must consult regularly with veterinarians on their “written herd health plans.” If an animal becomes sick, and requires antibiotics, its milk can’t be mixed with the other grassfed milk.
The new AGA standards are based on the simple premise that healthier cows produce dairy products that are healthier for humans. Launched last month and endorsed by OCA, the standards still in the implementation phase—so you won’t see them on dairy products yet. But the AGA says look for them soon.