USDA is reforming the “Product of the USA” meat label
USDA is reforming the “Product of the USA” meat label.
USDA wants to know whether shoppers actually understand what the “Product of the USA” label means, or if changes are needed. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack says that they plan to find the answers over the next several months.
“We’re going to do a survey to make sure that we have the factual basis upon which we can make a determination when folks are unfairly and improperly using that product label and making sure that we are diligent in making sure that it’s applied only to products that are indeed products of the U.S., and make a determination as to whether or not consumers actually place a significant monetary value of that label,” Vilsack states.
The results of that survey will guide the reform, expected at the start of the new year.
Kansas Senator Roger Marshall wants to see USDA eliminate the current “Product of the USA” label in favor of more voluntary, source verified labels.
According to the Senator, “If we went to a little bit different label and this is what we’re asking the USDA to do-- we’ve been asking this for over several years now, and it is finally getting a little bit of oxygen. So, a producer could say that this product was born in the USA, it was raised in the USA, or processed in the USA, and maybe a person could say all three of those, or two of the three, but I think consumers wanted to want that differentiated.”
He says that the current label is disingenuous: “Right now, the United States is importing large amounts of fresh beef from Brazil, maybe some African nations. They’re mixing it with American beef and calling that a ‘product of U.S.,’ and I don’t think any American out there thinks that’s really a fair assessment of the product.”
Other proposals have called for a return to mandatory country of origin labeling, but Senator Marshall is cautious of retaliatory tariffs.
“We can no longer look at beef just by itself in a silo in a vacuum,” he adds. “We’ve negotiated this USMCA trade agreement with Mexico and Canada, and remember, for the most part Canada or Mexico are typically our number one or two, maybe three, partners for all of our ag products. So, if we would go to an MCOOL, a mandatory country of origin labeling, and what would happen is there would be tariffs issued against those other products as well.”
American Farm Bureau has also weighed in on the label question, saying that their policy will only support meat labels that are WTO trade compliant.