Ag groups comment on USDA’s announced “top to bottom” meat labeling review


Ag groups comment on USDA’s announced “top to bottom” meat labeling review

Danielle Beck from NCBA

The USDA announced Thursday it will conduct a “top to bottom review” of the current “Product of USA” label on meat products.  In a statement, Secretary Tom Vilsack says the “Product of USA” label may confuse consumers about the origin of USDA inspected products.

Danielle Beck with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association says their organization is grateful to Secretary Vilsack for responding to their concerns about the label. “We have been working to address this issue for several years and last month, (NCBA) submitted a petition to USDA (that) emphasized to eliminate the Product of USA label and other broad-origin claims for beef products which are generically approved and potentially misleading to consumers.”

Beck says the current “product of the USA” label is a disservice for consumers and cattle producers alike because it implies that beef products are entirely of U.S. origin when that is not always true. “We think that instead of focusing on some unsuccessful ideas of the past, we need to approach this issue through reforms that ultimately enable producers to capitalize on consumer demand by strengthening voluntary labels that are source-varified, and also educate consumers in a meaningful way.”

The President of a cattle producers group says USDA’s “top to bottom” review of the “Product of USA” meat label is good, but it won’t solve the real labeling problem.  Bill Bullard with R-CALF USA tells Brownfield he’s pleased there is a renewed interest in providing consumers accurate information but, “The job really falls upon Congress to give consumers all of the information they need, and that is a label on all beef sold in America as to where the animal was born, raised and slaughtered.”

Bullard says USDA doesn’t have the authority to do that, and the best the agency can do is eliminate the mislabeling taking place now.  Bullard says that is why they remain focused on getting Congress to bring back mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (COOL).  “The only reason we have mislabeling occurring today is because Congress repealed the Country of Origin labeling law for beef, but did not retain the requirement that imported beef must retain its foreign label through the retail sale.”

Bullard says the current “Product of USA” label is misleading because the animal could be born in one country, raised in another, and harvested elsewhere.

Wisconsin Farmers Union President Darin Von Ruden issued a statement supporting the USDA review saying, “It’s critical that we address the way the current ‘Product of the USA’ label is misleading consumers. Not being able to differentiate between imported meat and the meat from animals that were truly born and raised here is hurting the American farmer and breaking the trust of our consumers. The ‘Product of the USA’ label should only apply to animals born, raised, and slaughtered in the United States — it has no place appearing on the label of meat from animals that never stepped foot on American soil.”