New USDA rules could benefit Minn., Dakotas livestock farmersby Dan Gunderson, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Farmers in Minnesota and the Dakotas could benefit from new USDA rules allowing them to market their livestock as natural.
The rules say if farmers document that animals are not given growth hormones or antibiotics, they can be sold as USDA certified natural meat. North Dakota State University Marketing Specialist Tim Petry said the natural label should help farmers get a premium price.
"But it has not been consistent from one sale and market to another so I know that's frustrating for producers because sometimes there are premiums and sometimes there are not," Petry said. "So it isn't just doing what USDA said and then hauling them to a market and saying they're natural and expecting a premium."
Petry said farmers need to do extra work to find a buyer willing to pay a consistent premium for natural products.
Petry estimates 30 to 40 percent of beef raised in Minnesota and the Dakotas already meets USDA criteria for a natural label, but he said less than 10 percent actually has the natural label.
"[About] 30 to 40 percent or more are probably natural and don't receive antibiotics or growth hormones, so if that's the case possibly just some documentation of that and a little marketing, they could get a premium when they're doing it anyway," he said.