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Standards

Supporting Organic Integrity with Clear Livestock and Poultry Standards

The mission of the National Organic Program, part of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), is to protect the integrity of organic products in the U.S. and around the world. This means creating clear and enforceable standards that protect the organic integrity of products from farm to table.  Consumers trust and look for the USDA organic seal because they know that USDA stands behind the standards that it represents.

Today, USDA announced a final rule regarding organic livestock and poultry production practices.  The rule strengthens the organic standards, and ensures that all organic animals live in pasture based systems utilizing production practices that support their well-being and natural behavior. It’s an important step that will strengthen consumer confidence in the USDA organic seal and ensure that organic agriculture continues to provide economic opportunities for farmers, ranchers, and businesses across the country.

New Allowances for Including a “Non-GMO” Statement on Certified Organic Meat and Poultry Products

Organic meat and poultry producers can now use a streamlined process to get approval for labels verifying that their products do not include genetically engineered (GE) ingredients.  These products may also now use a “Non-GMO” label claim.  Because of this, we’re updating a previous blog from our “Organic 101” series.

In 2014, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) streamlined procedures for including a “non-genetically engineered” statement on the label of organic meat and poultry products.  This continues to be consistent with organic regulations, which have always prohibited the use of GE in all organic products.  Today, FSIS is adding further process improvements and labeling flexibilities, in light of recently passed legislation.  Many organic stakeholders have expressed an interest in using “Non-GMO” label claims to clearly communicate to consumers that organic products do not contain genetically engineered ingredients, and that organic animals were not fed genetically engineered feed. 

Safeguarding Consumers from Olive Oil Fraud

Olive oil is a staple in many American kitchens. But, this popular product has also been the focus of concerned consumers who want to understand and trust the quality of the oil they buy.

To help the entire industry—olive oil producers, bottlers and consumers—ensure that products are pure and authentic, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) provides the Quality Monitoring Program (QMP).

Egg-ucating the Chefs of Tomorrow

When embarking on their culinary careers, great chefs recognize that the key to creating delicious food is staying true to their ingredients.  At the heart of these truths is, “Good in; good out.”  If they put the best ingredients into cooking, they’ll get the best food out of them.  But with so many product and ingredient choices at their fingertips, how can they be sure they’re picking the best quality ingredients available?

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) takes the guesswork out of that process by developing, maintaining and interpreting specific measurements of quality through U.S. standards and grades for a wide variety of agricultural products.  AMS also offers voluntary services to producers and suppliers to certify products to those standards.

Understanding AMS' Withdrawal of Two Voluntary Marketing Claim Standards

Last week, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) announced that effective January 12, 2016, the agency withdrew two voluntary marketing claim standards – the Grass (Forage) Fed Marketing Claim Standard and the Naturally Raised Marketing Claim Standard. The Naturally Raised Marketing Claim Standard has never been used by anyone.  What does the announcement really mean to grass-fed beef producers and consumers?  The honest answer is nothing.

Consumers and beef producers alike can be assured, AMS still strongly supports the nation’s grass-fed beef industry by serving as an independent verifier of various grass-fed beef marketing programs, and by providing timely market reports that help producers better understand the value of grass-fed cattle and beef.

Intercollegiate Meat Judging Program - Developing Future Ag Leaders

For many years, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), through its Livestock, Poultry, and Seed Program, has been actively involved in the Intercollegiate Meat Judging Program. The program serves as a tool to recruit and train future leaders in the meat and livestock industry.  Judging is a competitive event for youth through college students and it has a rich history in the U.S. meat industry – and here at AMS.

The program originally started in 1926 at the International Livestock Exposition in Chicago, and was sponsored by the National Live Stock and Meat Board.  Contests have been held every year since 1926, with the exception of the war years.

Keeping U.S. Meat Competitive on the World Stage

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has the vital mission of administering programs that help market American agricultural products competitively in the global marketplace.  One of the ways AMS meets this mission is through the development of our own globally recognized meat standards, developed by the program I oversee, the AMS Livestock, Poultry and Seed Program.  However, separately, AMS works to achieve our mission through our participation and leadership in international standards setting organizations such as the UNECE.

For many years, I have represented the U.S. as the Vice-Chairperson of the Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Specialized Section on Standardization of Meat.  UNECE is one of the many sections of the United Nations (UN), and facilitates international trade by developing agricultural quality standards.

Excellence in Taste and Flavor: American Kobe-Style Beef

When consumers hear the term Kobe, the first thought that comes to mind is typically not a city in Japan, but rather a juicy steak right off the grill.  Kobe beef is globally renowned for its rich flavor, juiciness, and tenderness or high marbling content.  Kobe beef is cuts of beef from the Tajima strain of Wagyu cattle (which mean Japanese cattle), raised in Kobe, Japan.  But did you know you can find Kobe-style beef produced right here in the United States?

Since 1994, U.S. producers have worked to offer American Kobe-style beef that features the same characteristics, marbling and flavor that defines Japan’s Kobe beef by bringing herds of Kryoshi and Akaushi breeds of Wagyu cattle to the United States.  The same closed herd and multi-trait selection process used for Kobe beef was adopted and is now used by various U.S. trade associations (American Akaushi Association, the American Wagyu Association, and the Texas Wagyu Association) that promote and uphold the industry standards. Highly prized for their rich flavor, these cattle produce what some would argue is among the finest beef in the world.

USDA Working with Serbian Meat Industry to Facilitate Trade

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service has the vital mission helping market American agricultural products competitively in the marketplace.  One way AMS meets this mission is through our globally recognized meat standards.  AMS has participated in the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) for many years to help develop global agricultural quality standards that facilitate trade – essentially ensuring everyone speaks the same trade language.

Recently, AMS traveled to Serbia to provide technical assistance to the Serbian Government and meat industry.  In cooperation with the USDA’s Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS), AMS has worked with Serbia to help modernize their meat standards and specifications.

Picking a Winner Part II - More Tips and Insights for Selecting Seasonal Produce

We all have our own methods and traditions for selecting fresh produce, especially as the weather gets warmer and our stores and markets are full of fresh seasonal offerings. Whether it’s smelling the rind or checking the firmness of the skin, these age-old practices are all designed to help pick the winning ingredients for snacks and meals.  Last spring, we provided tips for buying artichokes, apricots, broccoli, cherries, and strawberries. This time around, we will focus on some other seasonal favorites.

Whether it is part of a fruit salad or eaten by itself, cantaloupe is always a hit during the summer months. When purchasing a cantaloupe, make sure that its rind is light green or turning yellow. Ripe cantaloupes should yield to light pressure and have a sweet aroma. Most cantaloupes need to be kept in the refrigerator for 2-4 days before eating. Some may prefer to eat their cantaloupes at room temperature, while others like theirs after leaving it in the refrigerator for a few hours.