Opportunity for action

I’m a political girl. I like a good fight over the issues, love working on campaigns of any kind, and happily mouth off about my horse in the race.

What I like about the garden, though, is that it’s so very apolitical. The closest it gets to getting out the vote is when the rabbit in our yard decides which vegetable candidate it prefers to eat: cucumber? or eggplant?

However, I’m departing from my normal, non-political garden chatter to bring the following to your attention: I recently learned from the Eat Local Challenge blog about a disturbing new regulation the USDA is considering putting forth. The short version is that while currently, if beef is labeled as “grass-fed,” that means it actually ate grass. In a field. Wandering around. But the USDA is looking at regulation change that would eliminate that free-range provision from the wording of the rule. In other words, any cow fed grass, even if that cow is locked up in a little pen and not treated humanely, could still be labeled “grass-fed.”

I spend a fair amount of time trying to eat locally produced food, even if it’s not out of my back yard. For that reason, this regulation change is more than just semantics. What it means is that the local, small producers, the ones who actually do care about their animals and what they eat, and who are therefore more likely to raise a quality, safe, delicious product, will be pushed out of the marketplace because it will be that much more difficult for them to set themselves apart.

Slow Food USA has all the info you need to take action, if you, too, care about local and humane food. This is a bi-partisan issue of truth in food advertising. Oh, and if you’re someone who cringes at the issue of animal rights, I’m not getting all PETA on you with this one. This is fully selfish and human-centric–it’s simply healthier for your whole family not to eat meat filled with hormones and antibiotics, if you have the resources to make that choice. The “grass-fed” label may just be marketing, but I still think it’s critical to making educated sense of food choices available at our local markets.


6 Responses to “Opportunity for action”

  1. 1 Lisa Morgan August 7, 2006 at 2:58 pm

    I agree with you. Labeling means something, and it should be as accurate as possible. When I see meat labeled “grass-fed beef,” it naturally conjures up pictures of cows grazing around in a meadow, and I think everyone would agree that that’s what it should mean.

  2. 2 Dori August 7, 2006 at 8:16 pm

    I agree! Thanks for the links.

  3. 3 inadvertentgardener August 7, 2006 at 9:32 pm

    Dori, you’re so welcome. I hope others take action, too — this is a really important issue.

  4. 4 inadvertentgardener August 7, 2006 at 10:37 pm

    Lisa, you’re absolutely right. That’s my theory on it…if the labeling means nothing, why even bother?

  5. 5 steven August 8, 2006 at 6:47 am

    It’s not just “grass fed” that’s under attack, the Ag Industry is constantly trying to weaken the standards for “organic” and “free range”. I think what’s needed is a strict system that states the exact conditions under which an item produced can carry a designation. No wiggle room and no lobbying.

  6. 6 ExPat Chef August 8, 2006 at 10:32 am

    Be sure to fill out the survey and send it for comments to the USDA. Comment period closes on the 10th of August. Thanks, everyone. I want to know my food is produced naturally and be able to trust labels and regulations to protect me, not large-scale agriculture interests.

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