(WASHINGTON) – The United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA FSIS) officially responded today to the United States Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) petition regarding accurate labeling of beef products. The petition requested FSIS to amend the Agency’s Food Standards and Labeling Policy Book to provide that any beef labeled as “Made in the USA”, “Product of the USA”, “USA Beef”, or in any other manner that suggests that the origin is the United States be derived from cattle that have been born, raised, and slaughtered in the U.S.
USCA appreciates FSIS for responding to and acknowledging many points within the petition. Specifically, FSIS acknowledged USCA’s blueprint in regards to addressing the loopholes that exist within the current labeling system, and that the current consumer confusion in the marketplace is a direct result of these inaccurate labels.
However, as a part of the open rule making process, FSIS considered all of the comments submitted in response to USCA’s petition. A number of those comments were from industry and corporations who have long opposed accurate labeling in regards to “U.S. Beef”, and that is reflected in FSIS’s comments.
In response to the comments in opposition of USCA’s petition, FSIS will now consider a second rule making that will:
“limit “Product of USA” and certain other voluntary U.S. origin statements to the labeling of meat products from livestock that were slaughtered and processed in the United States. The Agency has determined that a voluntary U.S. meat product origin labeling policy that focusses on where the product is made, i.e., where the livestock are slaughtered and processed, without regard to where the source animals were born, may more accurately reflect what “origin” means with respect to meat products processed in the United States and will thus result in labels that are truthful and not misleading.”
While FSIS has acknowledged the problem of current consumer confusion in the marketplace, it is clear now that Congress will need to step in to fix the current labeling problem. USCA remains disappointed that an accurate and truthful origin definition was not achieved through Congress in 2015, however, efforts are underway to secure this needed language through legislation.
The second round of rulemaking will effectively take producers out of the equation when it comes to the labeling of U.S. beef products as FSIS will look to redefine the term “origin”, to instead refer to the packing house or processing facility, rather than the ranch. The true origin of any beef product is with the producer, and USCA will continue to work with Congress on a path forward to ensure this information is acknowledged and communicated effectively to the consumer.