Hot on the heels of new plant-food and regenerative organic agriculture labels being launched, another new organic seal will hit the retail market in March 2019, after U.S. organic grower groups and brands Organic Valley and Maple Hill announced they would launch a new Certified Grass-Fed Organic Livestock Program and Certification Mark and unify grass-fed organic standards across the U.S.

And the U.S. National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) filed a citizen petition with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, outlining a labeling solution to the use of dairy terms on non-dairy products. The NMPF said the petition reinforces current FDA labeling regulations and shows how marketplace transparency can be enhanced and consumer harm from confusion over nutritional content can be reduced. It pointed out that under existing FDA rules, non-dairy foods are required to use the word “imitation” if they reference standardized dairy food but do not have the same nutritional value.

According to a release on February 21, Organic Valley and Maple Hill, leaders in "100% grass-fed organic dairy", announced the launch of a new, third-party certification that sets the highest possible standards for organic dairy farming and products.

"Years in the making, the Certified Grass-Fed Organic Livestock Program™ and Certification Mark is administered by the Organic Plus Trust Inc. (OPT), a public benefit entity created to advance organic agriculture, and creates a universal definition and verification of grass-fed organic farming standards and products, which is voluntary and open to all. The inaugural products including the Certified Grass-Fed Organic Livestock Program official seal will debut at Natural Products Expo West March 5-9 in Anaheim, California," the release said.

Organic Valley started in 1988 and is America's largest cooperative of organic farmers and one of the nation's leading organic brands. It represents more than 2,000 farmers in 35 U.S. states, achieved US$1.1 billion in 2017 sales and produces a wide range of organic dairy, eggs and produce. Maple Hill provides 100 percent grass-fed organic dairy, producing milk, yogurt, kefir, and cheese made with milk procured from 150 small family farms in Upstate New York. Cows on Maple Hill farms graze on pasture, eat only grass and are never fed grain.

According to the release, the certification program brings much-needed consistency and transparency to grass-fed organic dairy standards for farmers, processors, manufacturers, certification bodies, retailers and consumers.

"Until now, the lack of federally-regulated grass-fed organic dairy standards allowed misleading labels to appear on the shelf, confusing consumers and frustrating the farming community. In order to protect the farmers, who adhere to the strictest grass-fed production standards, Maple Hill and Organic Valley began working on the certification program in 2017. Consumers will begin seeing the new seal on packaging this year, assuring the highest level of transparency by farmers and producers," the two groups said.

To be certified under the new OPT standard, dairy cows must be fed a grass diet, with zero-grain, and given plenty of pasture for grazing. 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. The enhanced certification criteria require all animals receive 60 percent of their dry matter intake from pasture over at least a 150-day grazing season (as opposed to 30 percent and 120 days per the National Organic Program standards).

The 2019 program is administered by EarthClaims LLC for the OPT. 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.

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