South Dakota Grassland Coalition

by Garnet Perman

Sept 2018

In South Dakota, Demkota has two USDA labels, Demkota Ranch Black Angus and Demkota Ranch, each have the same requirements except that the Black Angus label has to be ¾ Angus genetics. Both labels require carcass characteristics that indicate good quality, flavorful beef.

Beef Quality Assurance Verified is a voluntary program developed by the National Beef Cattle Association and the Food Safety and Inspection Service. Designed to boost consumer confidence, producers in BQA programs maintain detailed records of husbandry practices and treatments performed on their cattle. The requirements for each state vary somewhat. Information for South Dakota can be found on the BQA website.

Feed lots such as Wulf Cattle Company in McLaughlin and Chamberlain operate value added programs that look at the entire supply chain from the ranch on up. Wulf features three value added programs: Verified Natural Beef (VNB), Global Animal Partnership (GAP) Certified Cattle and Non-Hormone Treated Cattle (NHTC). VNB is a trademark that speaks to health concerns regarding antibiotics and hormones and GAP and adds an animal welfare component to the Verified Natural Beef requirements. NHTC include animals that have been treated with antibiotics but qualify for VNF or GAP in every other way. VNB and NHTC programs qualify for export to China and Saudi Arabia. NHTC can be sent to the European Union as well. Each program includes a paper trail that includes ID tags. The animals must move through approved channels to the consumer and all require annual third party verification. Wulf uses IMI Global as their third party. IMI Global has links to a number of verification programs on their website.

The Audubon Society recently initiated a program that addresses environmental interests. Each rancher adopts a Habitat Management Plan that is uniquely developed to address site-specific habitat goals and bird conservation opportunities. To be certified, each ranch must also meet program protocols related to forage and feeding, animal health and welfare, and environmental sustainability. Animals in the program must spend their entire lives on grasslands. Feedlots are not allowed, and growth hormones and antibiotics are strictly prohibited. Because the program is new, not many people are aware of it, but the hope is that “bird-friendly” beef production will become standard practice for all grassfed beef producers. The contact person for Audubon in South Dakota is Josh Lefers (

The American Marketing Service (AMS) and the Food Safety and Inspection Service are the government entities that monitor marketing claims. AMS offers a suite of audit services that allow a company to develop its own standard and have AMS verify those practices. With that type of verification, AMS publishes the specific components of that company’s standard on their website so that any interested person could understand each program’s similarities or differences.

The Food Safety and Inspection Service operates independently of the AMS. They require documentation when a certain label such as 100% Grass Fed is applied for to verify the truth of the claim. For example, organic grassfed animals must be accompanied by an affidavit from the producer when they are sent to market. Completely understanding a product’s claims may re-quire some research beyond just reading the label. The good news for Coalition members is that many certification and verification trends align well with the organization’s vision of encouraging sustainable and profitable management of grasslands.

Source: SDGC Newsletter

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