South Dakota Senators Mike Rounds and John Thune today introduced a bill to keep beef born, raised and slaughtered in foreign countries from receiving a “Product of the U.S.A.” label. The U.S. Beef Integrity Act would make certain that the “Product of the U.S.A.” label only goes to beef and beef products exclusively derived from one or more animals born, raised and slaughtered in the United States.
Currently, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) does not require that beef be born, raised and slaughtered in the U.S. in order to carry a “Product of the U.S.A.” label. This loophole allows beef from livestock born and raised in foreign countries to be labeled “Product of the U.S.A.” as long as the beef undergoes additional processing at a processing plant in the U.S.
Additionally, Thune and Rounds wrote to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to offer support for administrative changes to the FSIS beef labeling requirements.
“Our cattle producers offer some of the highest-quality beef in the world,” said Rounds. “Consumers deserve to know where their food is coming from. When South Dakota families purchase beef labeled ‘Product of the U.S.A.,’ they should know with certainty that it is coming from one of our top-quality producers. Today’s beef labeling rules are misleading and allow beef and beef products from cattle born, raised and slaughtered outside of the U.S. to be labeled as U.S. beef. This must be fixed for both consumers and our hardworking producers.”
The South Dakota Stockgrowers thanked the Senators for introducing the bill. “This legislation ensures honesty in beef labeling and that’s something all ranchers, consumers, and organizations should be supportive of,” said South Dakota Stockgrowers Executive Director James Halverson. “Our goal is to ensure that products from the U.S.A. are clearly labeled, it’s just that simple.”
Stockgrowers Trade Committee Chairman Ty Littau adds, “This legislation will go a long way to protect the integrity of US beef in markets both foreign and domestic. I applaud the continued leadership of our congressional delegation in this matter. This is a bold step in the right direction.”
The United States Cattlemen Association applauded the bill as well with USCA Truth in Labeling Committee Chairman Dannie Beer saying, “”Despite the repeal of mandatory country-of-origin labeling in 2015, packers and retailers are still labeling beef products with origin claims. USCA finds this practice abhorrent, as it rides on the coattails of the high-quality product U.S. ranchers produce. USCA is working several fronts on Truth in Labeling – addressing both non-labeled and improperly labeled beef and alternative protein products. Our goal is to immediately close this loophole which allows for imported product to be labeled as U.S. beef, and then continue pushing for the reestablishment of a country-of-origin labeling program.”
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association responded a bit more cautiously with Ethan Lane, Vice President of Government Affairs for NCBA saying, ““NCBA understands that the practices alleged in the letter from Senator Rounds and Senator Thune are a concern to cattle producers and we share a commitment to clear and truthful labeling. In August, in response to a proposal brought forward by our grassroots members, NCBA formed a working group to examine the prevalence of the alleged mislabeling practices. We are in the process of gathering information related to current industry labeling practices so we can fully understand the scope of the issue as we identify solutions that work for the industry.”
“In general, NCBA members are opposed to requesting additional government regulation on our industry,” Lane says. “Until we understand the scope of labeling practices currently being utilized, any rush to regulate is an irresponsible step that can create unnecessary and burdensome government mandates. NCBA is actively seeking information on beef labeling practices.”
“The creation of government policy or regulation is a complex process that requires a thorough understanding of the problem and the involvement of many stakeholders. As our industry is fully aware, any rush toward government regulation can create unintended consequences that take years to unwind.”
Senator Mike Rounds/South Dakota Stockgrowers/USCA/NCBA