Farm Action and American Grassfed Association applaud USDA’s announcement of a proposed rule limiting the use of the voluntary “Product of U.S.A.” label exclusively to meat, poultry, and egg products derived from animals born, raised, slaughtered, and processed in the United States.
In 2018 while at a previous organization, Farm Action co-founders drafted a petition filed jointly with American Grassfed Association, making the legal case for the USDA to stop allowing imported meat to bear a “Product of U.S.A.” label. In March 2020 and February 2022, the USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service referenced that petition as it announced it would take up the issue.
Current policy allows imported meat to bear a “Product of U.S.A.” label provided it passes through a USDA-inspected plant. This heavily exploited loophole has allowed multinational corporations to import meat, repackage it, and pass it off as a higher-quality product raised by U.S. farmers and ranchers. Today’s announcement is an important step toward closing this loophole, and was met with applause by the groups that initiated the effort.
“Truthful labels protect consumers and keep the playing field fair,” said Joe Maxwell, president and co-founder of Farm Action. “After a five year fight, we’re pleased to see the USDA stepping up to stop the cheaters picking the pockets of America’s farmers and ranchers.”
“Our petition filed in 2018 has finally been acted on,” said Carrie Balkcom, executive director of American Grassfed Association. “We are pleased to have the USDA act on the “Product of U.S.A.” as promised in the executive order issued by President Biden in July 2021. This proposed rulemaking change will help American grassfed farmers not be undercut by mislabeled meat coming from offshore. We will continue to work with Farm Action to make meat labels truthful.”
Misuse of the voluntary “Product of U.S.A.” label began after Congress rolled back Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (MCOOL) on beef and pork in 2015. MCOOL required all meat labels to disclose the country where the animals were born, raised, and slaughtered. Currently MCOOL covers lamb, chicken and other food commodities.
Today’s action by USDA to end the abuse of the voluntary “Product of U.S.A.” label is a crucial step toward bringing fairness to the marketplace, but Congress still must act to restore MCOOL for beef and pork to ensure all meat product labels disclose the product’s origin.
Farm Action will continue to pursue its Truth in Labeling campaign, coordinating with American Grassfed Association and other advocates to stop multinational meatpacking corporations from skirting the law and ensure U.S. consumers are provided the information they need to support American farmers and ranchers.
Dee Laninga, email@example.com, 202-450-0094
Carrie Balkcom, firstname.lastname@example.org, 303-591-3978