Frequently Asked Questions for
FAQs for Consumers
What is the difference between Grass-fed and Pasture for Life?
Currently, the term ‘grass-fed’ is loosely used in the UK. According to DEFRA, livestock only need to derive 51% of their diet from grass to be sold as ‘grass fed’. There is no evidence that such claims are ever investigated or otherwise policed.
This can generate distrust amongst consumers looking for genuine grass-fed meat with its associated health benefits. The ‘Pasture for Life’ Certification Mark provides customers with a guarantee that the meat has come from an animal that has been raised 100% on pasture all of its life.
FAQs for Farmers
How do I become a Certified Farmer or Certified Butcher
Anyone wishing to become a Pasture for Life Certified Farmer or Butcher should first read the full Certification Standards carefully.
If they feel they can comply with all requirements, the next stages are to:
- Become a member of the Pasture-Fed Livestock Association
- Register an interest via the contact page on the Pasture-Fed Livestock Association website
- Complete an online application
Once provisional approval is given to a farmer, arrangements can be made to co-ordinate a farm inspection with an existing one, such as Farm Assurance or Organic Certification.
What can the animals eat?
Animals must only eat grass and forage throughout their lifetime, with the exception of milk consumed by youngstock prior to weaning.
Permitted feeds include grass (both annual and perennial species) and legumes such as clover, trefoil and vetches. Herbs can also play an important part within pasture leys, providing drought resilience and a source of minerals and self-medication, as well as aiding digestion and reducing methane emissions from the animals.
Brassicas such as kale and turnips are permitted as part of a rotational farming system, provided the intake is properly balanced with grass or conserved forage. It is important that brassicas are managed responsibly and should be used to complement, rather than replace, feed from pasture.
Wholecrop silage made from the early vegetative stage of cereal crops is not excluded from the Certification Standards. However, there are strict limitations to ensure this provision is not used as a way to feed grains via the ‘back door’.
Straw is a natural and useful source of feed for ruminants. Since it is a by-product of grain production, and its use as an animal feed does not conflict with food for human consumption in the way that grain does, it is compatible with Pasture for Life principles and allowed under the Certification Standards.
The Pasture-Fed Livestock Association recommends straw as one of the feed sources to complement grazing on brassicas, to ensure there is sufficient fibre intake within the animals’ diet.
Where forage crops are grown on arable fields, they should be part of a rotation and their inclusion should not adversely affect the potential for growing crops for direct human consumption.
Can I use sprays and artificial fertiliser?
Pasture for Life primarily focusses upon the diet of ruminant livestock. It is a Certification Scheme that complements, and can be used in conjunction with, other schemes including High Animal Welfare and Organic Certification.
Therefore the Pasture for Life Certification Standards impose no restriction on the use of artificial fertilisers. Customers looking to completely avoid these inputs in production systems are likely to choose the combination of Organic plus Pasture for Life. Indeed more than half of Pasture for Life certified farms and businesses fall into this category.
However, it makes good financial and agronomic sense to avoid the use of artificial fertilisers and to use the nitrogen-fixing abilities of legumes like red and white clovers, to get the best out of grassland. The most successful Pasture for Life farms have completely eliminated the need for chemical fertilisers.
Similarly, there are no formal restrictions upon the use of herbicide sprays to control weeds. However, these products may also kill desired species within botanically rich swards, and the overall cost of using chemical sprays may outweigh any potential benefits. In general, use of such chemicals is discouraged.
Can I use veterinary medicines including antibiotics?
Veterinary medicines to treat, for instance, internal parasites or infections, may be used on animal welfare grounds, just as they are in organic systems.
Pasture for Life Certification is a complementary scheme, which can be combined with others, including Organic and High Animal Welfare, to achieve a ‘Gold Standard’ in terms of livestock production.
Are there nutritional provisions for ewes carrying multiple lambs?
The Certification Standards recognise the potential problems that can arise for ewes carrying multiple lambs. Provision is made for supplementary feeding of ewes in these specific cases, so that animal welfare is not compromised.
The Certification Standards also provide advice about the timing of lambing and the use of suitable sources of supplementary feed, such as lucerne nuts.
Traceability and the TRACKS system
The Pasture-Fed Livestock Association has developed a simple system for Certified Farmers and Butchers to offer the type of information their increasingly discerning customers are looking for at the point of sale, via a traceability code.
To create the traceability records, a Certified Farmer will enter the animal’s individual ear tag number, date of birth and gender onto the PFLA livestock database.
Lambs can be added either individually or in batches. Frequently used information including herd or flock number, is set up within the business details and used to pre-populate the animal details form, making the process both quick and easy.
When the animal is ready to leave the farm, the producer simply moves it to another Certified Farm or Certified Butcher, by selecting the destination from a drop-down list.
When taking delivery of a carcase, the Certified Butcher simply updates the records on his or her livestock database to acknowledge receipt of the animal, and to add information such as date of death, abattoir location and deadweight.
This should only take a few seconds to input. Designed to be quick and easy, there is also a guidance document available for farmers and butchers.
Once the animal record is completed, the Certified Butcher can take the Pasture Tracks code and apply it to the packs of meat or display it on the counter.
How can TRACKS ensure that produce only comes from certified Pasture for Life suppliers?
Only certified Farmers and Butchers are able to access the livestock database and create or update the traceability records. This guarantees that meat or Dairy produce displaying a Pasture Tracks code is indeed ‘Pasture for Life’ Certified.
I am selling meat direct from my farm, so do I need to register as both a Certified Farmer and Certified Butcher?
Yes, but do not worry, as this is straightforward. For anyone selling just their own meat direct to the consumer, there is no additional membership or certification fee, unlike independent butchers who may be sourcing from one or more certified farms.
Please contact the certification team for further details.
How much does it cost to become a certified farmer?
To become a certified Pasture for Life business, the farmer needs to first become a member of the Pasture-Fed Livestock Association. This costs £100 per year and includes all the benefits of PFLA membership, such as membership of the active discussion forum, provision of promotional materials, having an online profile on the PFLA website and benefitting from national and local PR activities. It also covers support for the certification application up to the point of gaining ‘Provisional’ certification.
Inspection costs vary depending on whether an annual or tri-annual inspection programme is chosen, and whether the Pasture for Life audit is combined with other farm assurance inspections, such as organic or Red Tractor. Find details of the inspection options and costs here.
I have just had my farm assurance inspection. What can I do to gain full Pasture for Life certification before the next one is due?
It is possible for farms just to have an audit for Pasture for Life certification sooner rather than later to speed up the process, but this will incur a slightly higher fee than if combined with another assurance inspection. We can work with you to ensure multiple inspections are synchronised in future years.
What can I do if my organic certification is not carried out by OF&G?
At the present time you can arrange to have your Pasture for Life inspection carried out separately to your organic inspection, although OF&G will still administrate the process on our behalf.
In future, we hope to offer Pasture for Life inspection alongside a wider range of other assurance schemes.
What can I do if my Red Tractor farm assurance inspection is not done by Acoura already?
You can continue to have your Red Tractor inspection done separately. It is, however, relatively straightforward to make the switch to Acoura if you wish to benefit from a combined inspection. The best thing to do is let us know your intentions during the application process and we can help ensure the most suitable arrangements are made.
FAQs for Butchers and Retailers
I am already selling grass-fed produce – why is the “Pasture for Life” Mark needed?
Customer confidence is paramount. We know the term ‘grass fed’ is being used to describe a wide range of produce. Much of this will be falling short of customer expectations in terms of how the animals are reared and fed, and the quality of the produce.
The Pasture-Fed Livestock Association wants to ensure that produce that genuinely comes from 100% grass-fed animals is given the distinction it deserves. The Pasture for Life Certification Mark provides that distinction.
The Pasture for Life brand can also be a selling point in its own right, or can be used to endorse existing, genuine 100% grass-fed claims.
How should I label Pasture Meat and what help is available for doing this?
Packs of Pasture for Life meat should carry the Certification Mark and the necessary batch identification to ensure full traceability – ideally in the form of a Tracks ID number and/or a QR barcode. See the Certification Standards for more details.
These elements can be included within the existing statutory label. Alternatively the Pasture-Fed Livestock Association can provide a small label, which includes the Certification Mark and Pasture Tracks code, to complement existing labels. Further guidance is provided once certified.
What marketing support is available from the Pasture-Fed Livestock Association?
On becoming fully certified, all Certified Butchers are issued with a Welcome Pack, which contains Pasture for Life badges, posters and consumer postcards that help explain what the Pasture for Life logo means. Most butchers place the postcards on their counters or include them in the meat boxes they send out to their customers.
The Pasture-Fed Livestock Association is also driving increasing numbers of visitors to its website where all outlets for Pasture Meat are listed. Certified Butchers are reporting a new wave of customers coming to them via this site.
There is also increasing engagement with key audiences on social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, and promotional plans are in place to reach informed groups such as those following the Paleo diet and Crossfit exercise regimes, as well as chefs, food writers and influencers and the general public.
How much does it cost to become a certified butcher?
Independent butchers who may be sourcing from one or more certified farms can apply for certification and a listing on the Where to Buy page of the PFLA website.
To become certified, it is necessary to first become a member of the Pasture-Fed Livestock Association, which costs £100 per year. This includes all the benefits of PFLA membership, such as membership of the active discussion forum, provision of promotional materials, having an online profile on the PFLA website and benefitting from national and local PR activities. It also covers support for the certification application up to the point of gaining ‘Provisional’ certification.
To achieve full certification, an audit of the business will be required and there are a number of ways in which this can be conducted. Please contact the certification team to find out more.
Certified butchers are also required to pay levies for each carcass sold thorough the business - £5 for cattle and 50p for lamb. These levies are payable to the Pasture-Fed Livestock Association.