U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilack said that the “Product of the USA” label on meat products should undergo a full-scale review, one that has long been sought by livestock producers who say that the label is inadequate and often misleading as it currently stands.
This week, the Federal Trade Commission finalized a rule that is intended to tighten the use of the Made in the USA standard. The FTC said that this update would especially benefit small business, who lack the resources to defend their products from imitators. However, the rule does not require specific actions be taken regarding beef labeling, and in conjunction with this rule, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a review of the “Product of the USA” label.
“I am committed to ensuring that the Product of USA label reflects what a plain understanding of those terms means to U.S. consumers,” Vilsack said.
According to reporting by The Fence Post, both the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, which have had opposing views on labeling, praised the decision to review the label.
U.S. Senator Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) said in a statement: “Consumers deserve to know the true source of their food. This news is a step in the right direction. It’s long past time to fix this label in order to restore transparency and fairness to the market.
“For years, we’ve called on the USDA to take action to stop foreign beef from receiving the ‘Product of the USA’ label. American consumers are being misled when the ‘Product of the USA’ label is allowed to be applied to foreign beef. American ranchers are faced with an unfair disadvantage in the marketplace, as lower quality foreign beef can falsely bear the ‘Product of the USA’ label. This undermines the high-quality of U.S.A. raised beef and needs to be stopped. Only products born, raised and slaughtered in the United States should receive the ‘Product of the USA’ label.”
There’s no question that any country-of-origin-labeling has been contentious, with various parties and alliances seeing the issue differently. Those in favor of the tightest regulations tend to favor a perspective that an animal should be born, raised, and harvested in the United States, not just fit the criteria of one of those three things. (Rounds, for example, introduced legislation to this effect.) Other stakeholders want the wording to say “processed in the USA,” to best reflect the reality of the food chain and to protect discrimination in trade dealings with Canada and Mexico.