The new third-party certification, called the 'Certified Grass-Fed Organic Livestock Program,' was created and launched by grass-fed organic dairy producers, Organic Valley and Maple Hill, and will be administered by the public benefit body Organic Plus Trust Inc (OPT).
Despite being the fastest-growing organic sub-segment in sales in 2017 (according to SPINS) with four out of five natural and organic consumers reporting that they regularly purchased grass-fed dairy products, a lack of a federally-regulated definition
for grass-fed dairy has led to consumer confusion and misleading labeling, according to Organic Valley and Maple Hill.
The new Certified Grass-Fed Organic Livestock Program is built on the foundation of organic, meaning a farm must first be certified organic to participate in the program, with added verification that dairy cows are fed a grass diet, with zero-grain, and given plenty of pasture for grazing.
The enhanced certification criteria requires all animals receive 60% of their dry matter intake from pasture over at least a 150-day grazing season (as opposed to 30% and 120 days per the National Organic Program standards).
The certification is unique from other grass-fed certifications in that it also requires a full supply chain verification to use the certification mark, creating a much higher level of transparency. The farm and dairy processor are certified to ensure grass-fed milk is segregated and authentic all the way to the consumer dairy product.
"This new certification and seal is a giant step forward in protecting the grass-fed claim and giving consumers a true standard to measure at the shelf," said Tim Joseph, founder of Maple Hill.
"And for Maple Hill, the launch of the new program is a meaningful way for us to mark 10 years delivering 100% grass-fed organic dairy. It's all we've ever done and it's all we'll ever do."
The Certified Grass-Fed Organic Livestock Program currently includes more than 320 certified farms, 15 certified dairy processors, 15 certifiers and an expected 48 different dairy products. Customers can expect to see the official seal in stores in 2019.