Farm Action Movement Wins “Product of U.S.A.” Meat Label Reform

The repeal of mandatory country of origin labeling in 2015 allowed global corporations to begin importing meat into the U.S. and mislabeling it as a “Product of U.S.A.” This dangerous loophole has allowed corporations to deceive U.S. consumers and drive U.S. farmers and ranchers out of business while our government looked the other way. 

Farm Action’s founders saw how destructive this policy was for farmers, consumers, and our food system — and took action. Over the following years, the movement they built to reform the use of the “Product of U.S.A.” label gained momentum.

Today, we have won that fight: The USDA has finalized a rule mandating that all meat products sold with the “Product of U.S.A.” label must be from animals born, raised, slaughtered, and processed here on U.S. soil.

Timeline: The Path to Victory

This policy change was hard-won. Here’s how we overcame the obstacles along the way:

Early 2018

The leadership of the American Grassfed Association — Executive Director Carrie Balkcom and then-President Will Harris of White Oak Pastures — told Joe Maxwell and Angela Huffman, who at the time led the advocacy organization Organization for Competitive Markets, that meatpacking corporations were mislabeling imported meat as “Product of U.S.A.” and stealing market opportunity from their cattle producer members.

Joe and Carrie met with the USDA, explaining the issue and asking for a change in policy. But after this meeting and several follow up conversations, it became clear that USDA wouldn’t budge.

So the four leaders decided to take more official action. Leveraging his legal background, Joe captured the case for a policy change in a formal regulatory petition to USDA. 

June 2018

Angela, Joe, Carrie, and Will jointly filed the petition from their two organizations, which demanded that USDA change its policy to allow only U.S. domestic meat products to bear the “Product of U.S.A.” label.

They then began sounding the alarm among the public, circulating resources like this video to raise awareness about the “Product of U.S.A.” deception. Their efforts paid off with coverage in national outlets from Forbes to Politico to Fox News, which put additional pressure on USDA to make the change.  

October 2019

While the petition was active, Angela, Joe, Carrie, and Will kept up the pressure on USDA through in-person meetings, quarterly phone calls, and a farmer fly-in. They even hosted a rally in Omaha, Nebraska to drive home the support for label reform. CNN reported on the hundreds of cattle ranchers who rode in that day – some on horseback!

The result? More than 2,500 people and organizations submitted comments in response to the petition, and two industry associations followed suit by filing their own petitions that urged USDA to change its rule.

March 2020

Another roadblock: USDA denied the petition. While the Department agreed the current standard was causing confusion, they would only consider changing the policy to require that meat sold under the “Product of U.S.A.” label be from animals slaughtered and processed in the U.S. This would still allow other countries to import cattle to the U.S. and label the meat a “Product of U.S.A.”

But the four leaders recognized that public opinion was on their side, and they had enough momentum to go all the way with reforming this label. They decided to keep fighting until USDA agreed to only allow the label on meat products from animals born, raised, slaughtered, and processed in the U.S.

November 2020

As part of the launch of Farm Action, Joe and Angela released a transition paper for the incoming Biden administration, recommending they take up labeling reform.

Farm Action staff briefed various Biden-Harris landing and transition teams in November and December, highlighting this as a priority for America’s farmers and ranchers and advocating for the administration to take up the cause.

July 2021

President Biden issued an Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy, a sweeping and historic call for competition reform that, among other priorities, urged the USDA to reform its “Product of U.S.A.” label. In conversations with White House officials, Farm Action staff was thanked for helping to “write the playbook.”

February 2022

USDA referenced the petition by Angela, Joe, Carrie, and Will in a request for the information it needed to launch a rulemaking process on the label.

March 2023

USDA announced a proposed rule that would mandate that the “Product of U.S.A.” label could only be used on meat from animals born, raised, slaughtered, and processed in the U.S. Farm Action seized the opportunity by rallying its longtime supporters to submit comments in support of the proposed rule.

June 2023

Farm Action joined forces again with the American Grassfed Association to issue a public comment in response to USDA’s proposed rule that would reform the “Product of U.S.A.” label. Our comment set out the benefits for farmers and consumers of ensuring this label could only be used on truly domestic meat.


March 2024

After a six-year fight, USDA has issued a final rule that strictly reserves use of this important food label for meat from animals born, raised, slaughtered, and processed in the U.S. By preventing global corporations from passing off their imported meat as a U.S. product, this rule allows farmers and ranchers in the U.S. to compete. It also ensures consumers can buy meat from animals raised by American farmers and processed in American facilities — which will only strengthen the American food system.

On to the Next Battle!

This was one fight and one victory in an effort to force the government to work on behalf of the people and not the powerful corporations. Help us keep winning on behalf of America’s farmers, ranchers, eaters — and you! Please consider contributing what you can to support our work.

Written and edited by Dee Laninga, Joe Maxwell, and Angela Huffman