Consumers have been shelling out premiums for organic dairy products from grass-fed cows. But for the most part, there wasn’t a way to tell whether those cows had eaten a few blades of grass or an exclusive grass diet.
Now, Organic Valley and Maple Hill have come up with a third-party certification standard for grass-fed products, one of the fastest-growing categories in dairy. To obtain the seal, cows must have a 100 percent grass diet with zero grains, and have plenty of pasture for grazing. There’s also a full supply chain verification. Only certified organic farms can participate.
Consumers are increasingly interested in transparency with regards to food -- they want to know where their food comes from and how animals are raised. However, claims on food labels don’t always help, and the lack of a standard for grass-fed organic dairy in particular led to misleading labels. The new program is a check on other companies who are doing “greenwashing,” said Melissa Hughes, chief mission officer and general counsel at Organic Valley.
“If you’re going to put this on your label, it’s going to mean something tough,” Hughes said. “Honestly, consumers are confused about all the different labels out there.”
Grass-milk products are relatively new on grocery store shelves. Organic Valley started doing work with grass milk about five years ago, Hughes said. Consumers can expect to see the certified grass-fed organic seal in stores in 2019. The program currently has more than 320 farms, 15 dairy processors, 15 certifiers for an expected 48 different dairy products.