Product of the USA Label controversy

Ken Morris
Wednesday, April 13, 2022

In March of 2020 the USDA made a statement that the present definition of the Product in USA label was confusing consumers. The admission came in response to a petition filed by the United States Cattlemen’s Association about accurate labeling. At present, simply repackaging imported beef once it enters the USA allows this product to carry the Product of USA label.

There is proposed legislation in Congress that seeks to redefine this voluntary label to be used only on products from cattle born, raised and harvested in the USA (Senate Bill 2623 and House Bill 4973, the USA Beef Act). The USDA has also stated that the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) division of the USDA has the authority to enforce the correct use of such a label going so far as to propose fine amounts for each instance of misuse.

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), which claims it is the voice of the American cattle producer, on the other hand has petitioned the USDA to stop the corruptive use of the present Product of USA label on beef products by eliminating it altogether. In its place they propose a blanket Processed in USA label which could be placed on any beef, whether it is imported or domestically produced.

A public comment period has just closed initiated by FSIS asking for a survey of American’s opinions on this important matter. The vast majority of those surveyed wanted a truthful Product of USA label on the beef they purchase. Additionally, a statement made in the comments from the Consumer Federation of America claims a poll they conducted found that 88% of those consumers questioned wanted a truthful origin label on the meat they buy.

Perhaps the most interesting statement was from the National Chicken Council which said at the end of its comments, “NCC urges FSIS to keep in mind the important role that origin labeling plays for American consumers of chicken products and to ensure that FSIS policy continues to allow this important information to be conveyed to consumers”. It should also be noted here that much of the chicken sold at retail in the USA is subject to Mandatory USDA Country of Origin Labeling.

As an American cattle producer organization, the Montana Cattlemen’s Association finds it strange that we agree more with the National Chicken Council then we do with the NCBA on this important issue. Please join MCA to help support the cattle industry’s USA labeling rules.

Ken Morris is a director of the Montana Cattlemen’s Association.