BILLINGS, Mont | In comments submitted to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), R-CALF USA expressed general support of the agency’s proposal for new requirements for the voluntary “Product of USA” label but urged the USDA to take additional steps for mandatory reforms.
On March 6, 2023, USDA released a proposed rule for new requirements to allow the “Product of USA” label only on beef and other products when they are derived from animals born, raised, slaughtered and processed in the United States. According to USDA, this rule aims to “prevent consumer confusion and help ensure that consumers understand where their food comes from.”
However, under this rule, the use of the “Product of USA” label will continue to be voluntary.
In its comments, R-CALF USA stated it appreciates FSIS’s efforts to partially comply with the Tariff Act of 1930 and the Federal Meat Inspection Act. The group noted the proposed rule only partially corrects a decades-old mistake that has caused irreparable injury to American cattle producers and consumers. The group reaffirmed that the only way to correct this is for USDA to champion before Congress the reinstatement of mandatory country of origin labeling (MCOOL) for beef to ensure all beef sold at the grocery store, both foreign and domestic, is labeled as to its country of origin.
R-CALF USA expressed that all U.S.-origin qualified products, such as imported products that are sliced in the U.S., should include a label that leads with the foreign country of origin of the product itself. It also stated that products that are only partially domestic, such as beef from cattle born in a foreign country and raised and slaughtered in the U.S., the label should include the foreign country where the animal was born followed by the United States designation for where it was later raised and harvested.
The group’s comments also included that all additional ingredients in multi-ingredient products should be derived from animals born, raised, slaughtered, and processed in the United States, and that the USDA should expressly state that the only documentation required for verifying an authorized labeling claim for beef is a declaration that the live animal bore no import markings when presented for slaughter at a U.S. slaughter plant.
“We appreciate the effort to put an end to the long-standing, egregious practice of voluntarily mislabeling foreign beef as a Product of the USA,” said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard. “We still strongly urge the USDA to persuade Congress to fully reinstate MCOOL for beef so all beef sold at retail will be labeled as to its country of origin in more accurate and understandable labels for consumers.”
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Ranchers Cattlemen Action Legal Fund United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF USA) is the largest producer-only lobbying and trade association representing U.S. cattle producers. It is a national, nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring the continued profitability and viability of the U.S. cattle industry. Visit www.r-calfusa.com or call (406) 252-2516 for more information.