Awhile back I wrote that the USDA was stealing the term Naturally Grown. Well, they have done so. No need to listen to comments from the people. Apparently there was no need for them to bother waiting for the rule to be implemented. They just went ahead and stopped the use of Certified Naturally Grown (CNG) on meat labels. I hate saying “I told you so”, I really do, especially since I’m the one, along with all CNG farmers and consumers, who’s taking a beating here…

The scoop on the Naturally Raised claim is that the USDA has asked for comments on a proposed Naturally Raised claim standard. They have it in the federal registry and are asking for comments until 1/28/2008.

The proposed standard is to be voluntary but it is anything but that for small farmers – much like a voluntary NAIS. The USDA is already rejecting meat labels with the Certified Naturally Grown logo. I discovered this when I submitted our most recent label design for our Sugar Mountain Farm All Natural Pastured Pork Hot Dogs last fall before the comment period even started.

Despite the facts that:

1) it is a voluntary standard,

2) the comment period has not yet closed and

3) the rule is not yet implemented,

the USDA is already rejecting Certified Naturally Grown as a violation of the proposed rule. They told me I may not use the CNG logo on our new label. Interestingly, they had previously accepted our use of the the CNG logo back in the beginning of 2007 for our last meat label design. Thus this is a change in policy.

The worst part is that not only are they stealing and destroying the already existing Certified Naturally Grown label that was created by small farmers to differentiate themselves from the mass produced factory farms but the USDA is also diluting the standard – the USDA version totally fails to cover the real issues such as access to pasture and natural quality of life. The USDA proposal also puts in restrictions on diet that are weird such as saying that pigs and chickens can’t drink milk or eat cheese – two very good foods for both of these species. The USDA’s proposed rule is written such that it specifically benefits large confinement feeding operations so they can use the term while making it harder for small farmers who are really Naturally Raising their livestock.

Like with Certified Organic, once again, the USDA steals from the small farmers to give to Big Ag – the anti-Robin Hood of agriculture. Now is your chance to be heard so go to that link and response – jump through all the hurdles to get your comments into the registry. They appear to purposefully make it difficult to leave comments so don’t give up – work your way through the process. Once again, here’s the link for leaving comments on the new proposed Naturally Raised rule.

Outdoors: 49°F/33°F Mostly Sunny, Very Windy, tiny amount of rain
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About Walter Jeffries

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23 Responses to USDA Steals CNG

  1. Anonymous says:

    Comment posted at USDA, thanks for update.

  2. m n says:

    That is a real pisser! I just joined CNG this past year and got our certification for our farm here. I dont see how they can get away with this. What the USDA is doing is illegal! I am awriting my senators!

  3. valereee says:

    Disgusting. You wonder how these people can live with themselves.

  4. Angie says:

    Why is the governmnt even defining words????? I thought that was the province of dictionaries. Governments job is to make war, not words. This is all so absurd. First organic becomes polluted. Now naturally raised becomes confinement fed. Luvelly.

    What all this says to me is buy locally from farmers you know who are in our community. That way we keep our dollars locally rather than sending them to Cargill, Smithfield, Tyson and their friends.

    By the way. I love your label Walt. I just wish you lived closer so I could buy from you. I saw you dont ship. Why?

  5. Angie,

    We don’t ship most of all because we aren’t able to meet the local demand within our own 100 mile or so radius for our pastured pork.

    I’m not sure what the regulations are for shipping meat or how to go about doing so. I imagine it would have to be overnighted and packed with dry ice or something. The cost seems prohibitive.

    Another important issue is I would like you, and everyone, to buy locally and support the farms in your area, especially the small farmers. By doing so you help keep money, jobs and open land in your community. That is of great value.



  6. Of course this is horrible for us farmers, yet I can’t help but feel bad for consumers who trustingly purchase CO or CNG from large grocery store chains.

    Walt your right I can’t meet my demand within 100 miles. I don’t think any farmer can the demand is so great.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I went to the link to leave a comment — yes it is hard to do! Apparently I delayed too long on the website and when I clicked their link to the document, I got sent to a screen that said something like “due to inactivity, your session has ended”. Hitting the “back” button was no help. I had to come back here for your link to find the place to leave comments!

    So my advice is be ready when you go to Walter’s link.

  8. turtlebella says:

    Well, I hope I commented at the right place! Sheesh. I shouldn’t be too surprised that it’s so weird, having tried to submit various things (grants mostly, back when I was an academic) through government websites. Anyway, thanks for letting us know about this. I am outraged (again, not surprised but this doesn’t affect the degree of my outrage).

    What else can we do? Should we write senators, representatives? Would that even matter? Of course, I will be, now more than ever- which was already quite a lot-, buying directly from my local farmers.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Hi Walter,
    I’ve been reading your blog for a while now and I gotta tell you, you do a great job! I have a small blueberry farm not to far away from you in NH and have found the Extension Servive people to be very supportive of small farms in general and especially organic farms. (yes I know they still offer reconmendations for non organic farms etc.) But these folks depend on us for their jobs in a very real sense. So much so that one extension guy I know really services the giant Pumpkin growers because he knows that in the event of budget cuts the pumpkin growers will raise hell! I wonder if those of us in the blogosphere could influence the extension service folks to fight for the naturally grown label. They have the time & contacts where many small farmers don’t. -Mike

  10. Sue F says:

    Any word on how the CNG org itself is dealing with this nonsense?

    While I don’t sell or produce enough to worry about the Semantics games yet I’m still hopeful I can some day.Even so I prefer my food to be just what it is and nothing more. I can add my own salt. I don’t want antibiotics or hormones or pesticides in it, on it or around it.

    Nor will I stop giving leftovers to the chickens or stop them from hunting mice. Birds being the little dino raptors that they are eat meat. Even my parrot enjoys an occasional corn borer with her chunk of ear.

  11. As Mike points out, one thing to remember is the government and the USDA are not a homogeneous blog. Rather they are like the proverbial left hand that never knows what the right hand is doing. The government does good and bad. In fact, I would wager that the majority of the government is good. Some is bad. It’s that small part that is truly rotten and evil that we have to watch out for. Sadly they keep coming around and they have too much power. The only solution is to be ever vigilant and to question what we hear.

    SueF, CNG is in contact with the USDA FSIS trying to resolve this problem of the USDA disallowing their logo on meat labels. I will post more details when I know more.

  12. Mike says:

    Holy, heck. I just mailed in the written part of my CNG application TODAY. This won’t affect me directly, because I’m a small, local veggie grower in Ontario, Canada, but it’s just a matter of time…

    I’ve been kinda amazed all along that certification really hung on just a WORD, with everything else left kinda unspoken. With supermarket organic products, I haven’t seen mention of specific organic ADVANTAGES, advertising or on packaging. You hear about zero transfat, low sodium, etc, etc, but what are people buying with that “organic” stamp… It’s never really stated. What a weird situation, only magnified by this move to, apparently, protect “organic” from other…words?!

    So maybe it’s about picking more…defensible words to go with the same CNG/NOP certification requirements. Maybe “farmer-certified” (but then, calling yourself a “farmer” would be regulated?). Or perhaps a more abstract phrase along with a nice family-farm graphic on the logo, like, “conscientiously grown”… It’d get the same message across to consumers: “it’s organic, fair trade, all that good stuff…” Particularly if the logo looked good… :)

    It’s crazy.

  13. Mellifera says:

    Hey hey hey, I just commented, and was able to cite “my work in veterinary medicine” as backup. So what if I’m just a lab techie? ; )

    One thing we were thinking of when we have a farm of our own is hosting “farm tours” and inviting congressmen, local EPA and food safety agents, zoning board members, anybody who’ll come, with the idea of becoming less anonymous to these members of government with a lot of responsibility over us. I think that perhaps a lot of them are only familiar with the “problem” farmers who come to their attention through various complaints and pollution problems, and for them to see the potential of a well-run farm could actually be an eye-opener.

    The idea is to eventually become some kind of local strongman and to have the government at one’s beck and call. Heh heh heh…. yeah right. Anyway,
    the only downside is we’d really have to scrub the place down first. : )

  14. Hmm… You could do working tours, sort of like the due-ranches where people get to go currie the horses, shovel the shi…, er, stalls, and such so they get a feel for real farms. Over night, bed and breakfast of fresh farm bacon and eggs, etc.

    Actually, there’s quite a bit of this sort of agri-tourism being done now. Something to look into.

  15. shannon says:

    Hi Walter,

    My name is Shannon and I’m the editorial assistant at I am very impressed with the quality of your posts and to that end, I’d like to invite you to be a part of our newly launched Foodbuzz Featured Publisher program. I would love to send you more details about the program, so if you are interested, please email me at

    I really love how your blog is all about the farmer’s perspective. You seem to have provided a great forum for people to exchange and voice their ideas. Kudos to you!


    Shannon Eliot
    Editorial Assistant,

  16. Melliifera says:

    Oh no… no no no WAY are we doing agritourism, bro! The whole point of farming is NOT to have to nuzzle bums for a living. : D (We’re thinking we might build a cabin on the other side of the property in case parents want to move in, and renting it out in the meantime, but that’s AS close as it’s gonna get.)

    Maybe the farm (ranch) tour is a western-states tradition? I went to ag school out in Utah and from the sound of it the ranchers would invite everyone (read: neighbors and the local Soil Conservation Service/FWS/BLM agents) over every once in a while for a farm tour & barbecue. Often they’d have one after adopting some crazy newfangled range-management technique that had only been around for, say, twenty or thirty years… once they worked out the kinks and it proved to be less of a disaster than everyone had told them it would be, it was a nice congenial way to let all the neighbors know that it really did work and they’d really known exactly what they were up to the whole time.

    The amount of concern by the gov’t and environmental groups over the health of these huge tracts of land probably helped prompt this- ranchers found out they had to defend themselves and find a good way to publicize the fact that ranches could be run in an environmentally-friendly way (and better than subdivisions, in any case). Inviting people on in worked for them. They could see the land with their own eyes (and perhaps the stark contrast between theirs and their no-account neighbor’s, wink wink nudge nudge), and you have a captive audience with your local gov’t agents for the better part of a day.

    Also when you’re on a 500 sqm ranch, maybe it’s the only time you ever see the neighbors except when you’re arguing over who’s supposed to have their ditch on that day.

  17. Jessie says:

    Hello Walter,

    I’ve been reading your blog for weeks now (I LOVE it) but haven’t left any comments, looks like I’m starting out with a long one (sorry). I read the USDA’s notice, and there are a few things that I don’t understand:

    “The feeding of mammalian or avian by-products is prohibited. Livestock cannot be fed rations that include components that are mammalian or avian derived.”

    Does this translate as meat products (reasonable considering mad cow risk at large factory farms?) or dairy as well (unreasonable?)?

    Furthermore the proposed standard does not address access to pasture, which from what I’ve read is one of the main issues CNG was supposed to address when farmers, instead of the government, owned the term.

    Perhaps there needs to be three levels of voluntary certification:
    1. No growth hormones, no antibiotics, not fed animal meat, access to pasture throughout the day.
    2. No growth hormones, no antibiotics, not fed animal meat
    3. Eat at your own risk :)
    Level one would help small farmers promote their products and level two could encourage factory farms to be more responsible.

    The government should be concerned with supporting small farmers! I’ll post my comments on their website soon when I’m a bit more educated.

    I’m pretty new to this and stuck in the city to boot, but I am very interested in educating myself. I love your blog, it is helping me become more aware of where my food comes from!

  18. Hi Jessie, I asked the question about dairy vs meat directly of Kerry R. Smith, Ph.D., Livestock and Meat Marketing Specialist, USDA / AMS / LS / STDZ and to date I have not received an answer although he has answered other questions so I know we’re in communications. It is odd to me that it is written so vaguely.

    The access to pasture is another important part of the Certified Naturally Grown standards that the USDA version dilutes by providing no qualifier on that. Please do leave comments in the federal registry (see the link in the article above).

    Below is a copy of the comment I left for the USDA:

    We are a small family farm with no outside non-family employees and net annual sales under $100,000. We are already Certified Naturally Grown by the certifying organization which can be found at which has been certifying farms for years for this claim. Our certification and the use of the CNG logo is an important marketing tool that helps us and other small farmers differentiate our products. Our customers have come to recognize our logo and the CNG logo on our meat label as a sign of quality.

    Because there is already a certifying organization for Certified Naturally Grown ( this standard should be set to follow the guidelines and rules already established by that organization and followed by farmers who are already certified by that national organization. Duplication of the term, standards, rules and moniker could cause unnecessary confusion for consumers as well as hardship for farmers who are already Certified Naturally Grown.

    Specifically regarding the proposed voluntary standards the following changes need to be made:

    1. The words “mammalian or avian by-products” should be modified to be “mammalian or avian _slaughter_ by-products” to explicitly allow for the feeding of dairy and eggs to swine. These are natural and good forms of food for pigs. Consumers understand and expect our pigs to eat milk and eggs which are traditional foods for hogs. For example in the proposed standard it says:

    “The feeding of mammalian or avian by-products is prohibited. Livestock cannot be fed rations that include components that are mammalian or avian derived.”

    needs to be changed to:

    “The feeding of mammalian or avian _slaughter_ by-products is prohibited. Livestock cannot be fed rations that include components that are derived from mammalian or avian slaughter.”

    Other sections need to be similarly revised. Let me know if you need help rewording it but those examples should get you started.

    2. Livestock should specifically be required to free-range outdoors on pasture in order to meat the claim standards. Confinement feeding operations should be explicitly excluded from using the term Naturally Raised or Naturally Grown. Consumers expect that Naturally Grown and Naturally Raised mean the animals are outdoors on pasture. To simply set the standard at the way it is worded in the proposed AMS standard would be both miss-leading and confusing to consumers

  19. John Collis says:

    While the USDA steals the CNG. The FDA approves cloned animals to enter to the food supply check out this link

  20. karl says:

    hey walter,

    in your spare time you should start your own certification process. trademark it and call it something like traditionally farmed. make small farm size, non gmo, non petrol fertilizers, and everything else that is organic. the scale of the farm should the most rigorous criteria. this will keep the big boys out for a while. they’ll really have a battle taking out the scale criteria out if that is synonymous with the name.

  21. George says:

    What ever happened w/ this? I see CNG is still up and running….

    • The USDA said that farmers could no longer use the terms “Certified” Naturally Grown without the USDA’s permission. CNG made no effort to protect the trademark. After a while of that we stopped renewing our membership in CNG since it no longer had any value. After that I don’t know what happened to CNG. A pity.

      This didn’t change our farming methods. We still farm naturally, don’t use pesticides, herbicides, etc. In other words we raise our food the way we want it grown for our own children. We share the bounty with others.

      We’re now and with a new logo that doesn’t use the word “Certified” which was the USDA’s biggest issue. They have approved the new logo and there’s a web page linked to that which describes what we do. Check it out.

      During the process of the formulation of the new regulations I worked hard with the USDA on the wording. The original text banned the consumption of dairy by pigs and chickens which is wrong. We got this corrected. Dairy is an excellent traditional food for both animals and chickens are meat eaters. What had happened was the rules were being originally written by people who only dealt with cattle so that was all that was in their thinking and experience. This is a prime example of why we must keep an eye on government, watching out for unintended consequences. Frankly, I was very disappointed in CNG for not doing their part to protect the label.

  22. ethan says:

    this is exactly the type of **** underlying the existence of the Community Rights movement…

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