Reuters | Biden Administration Finalizes Higher Standard for ‘Product of USA’ Meat Label

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden on Monday finalized a rule requiring meat, poultry, or eggs labeled as a U.S. product to come from animals born, raised, slaughtered, and processed in the country.

The rule, proposed last March, is a victory for U.S. ranchers who argued for years that use of the voluntary label by companies who raised animals abroad and only slaughtered or processed them in the U.S. was misleading and disadvantaged domestic producers.

“This final rule will ensure that when consumers see ‘Product of USA’ they can trust the authenticity of that label and know that every step involved, from birth to processing, was done here in America,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a statement.

Vilsack announced the final rule to cheers at the annual meeting of the National Farmers Union in Scottsdale, Arizona.

“The abuse of the ‘Product of U.S.A.’ label stripped America’s cattle producers of a vital opportunity to market their USA beef while denying consumers the opportunity to support them,” said Joe Maxwell, co-founder of the farm group Farm Action, in a statement.

Producers using “Product of USA” or “Made in the USDA” labels will need to comply with the rule by Jan. 1, 2026.

The USDA also announced $9.5 million in grants for 42 projects expanding small-scale local meat processing capacity.

The labeling rule and the processing funds are part of a broader suite of USDA actions to enhance competition in the meat industry.

Mexico, a key U.S. trading partner, expressed “disappointment and worry” after the rule announcement.

“This measure does not consider the nature of the deep integration of the North American livestock and meat sectors,” Mexico’s agriculture ministry said, adding Mexico exported $3 billion of beef, live cattle and derivatives to the U.S. in 2023.

Meat labeling has been a point of contention between the U.S. and Mexico in the past.

In 2012, the World Trade Organization sided with Mexico and Canada when it ruled that U.S. meat labeling regulations were not fully in line with international fair trading rules and unfairly discriminated against Canada and Mexico because they gave less favorable treatment to beef and pork imported from those countries than to U.S.

Mexico on Monday said the Biden administration’s decision could create incentives for incompliance with the WTO’s ruling.

(Reporting by Leah Douglas; Additional reporting by Brendan O’Boyle and Adriana Barrera in Mexico City; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Michael Perry)