Farm Action, joined by Rural Coalition and the American Grassfed Association, issued a public comment in support of a proposed rule from USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). The rule would only permit the use of the voluntary “Product of U.S.A.” label for meat products derived from animals born, raised, slaughtered, and processed in the United States.
Current policy allows the “Product of U.S.A.” label to be used on imported meat if it merely passes through a USDA-inspected plant. Farm Action’s co-founders and the American Grassfed Association filed a petition calling for reforms to this labeling system in 2018, prompting USDA to open a public comment period. FSIS referenced that petition in its announcement of the survey that preceded this proposed rule.
The comment submitted Friday sets forth the legal foundations of the proposed rule and enumerates the benefits it would achieve on behalf of American farmers and consumers.
Reviewing decades of research into consumer attitudes towards food labels, the comment revealed that the current label use deceives consumers, whereas the proposed rule would bring the “Product of U.S.A.” label into alignment with what consumers already believe it means. With the proposed rule, FSIS “would take a significant step toward giving consumers the information about where their food comes from that, in survey after survey, consumers have indicated they want to have,” the comment said.
The benefits of the proposed rule are particularly compelling for U.S.-based farmers. For decades, “cheap imports masquerading as domestic products” have “[undermined] the competitive position of independent ranchers and processors” and denied them market opportunities.
“The Proposed Rule would enable consumers to confidently locate meat products derived from animals bred and raised by American ranchers, slaughtered in American processing facilities, and prepared for wholesale distribution and retail consumption by American workers.”
By allowing consumers to act on their well-documented preference for domestic products, the resulting shift in consumer spending “could substantially enhance market opportunities for independent ranchers and processors,” the comment said.
“Commenters urge FSIS to move decisively and issue a strong final rule establishing that meat, poultry, egg, and other FSIS-regulated products must be derived from animals born, raised, slaughtered, and processed in the United States to bear a ‘Product of U.S.A.’ label,” the comment concluded.
Truth in food labeling has long been a primary issue for Farm Action, which will continue working with FSIS as it finalizes the proposed rule.
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