The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) has filed a petition with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS) to eliminate the use of “Product of the USA” (POTUSA) and other broad U.S. origin labeling claims for beef products that are potentially misleading to consumers.
NCBA believes that current “Product of the USA” labels are a disservice to American consumers and cattle producers alike. The claim implies that a beef product is entirely of U.S. origin. However, in reality, imported beef products are eligible to be labeled “Product of the USA” as long as the product has been minimally processed or repackaged in a USDA-inspected facility. It is not subject to source verification, is not tied to any kind of food safety standard, and is applied by packers and retailers in a manner that does not deliver value back to the cattle producer.
“The Product of the USA label does not meet the expectations of today’s consumers and disincentivizes the use of voluntary, source-verified claims that allow cattle and beef producers to more effectively distinguish their product in the marketplace,” said NCBA President Jerry Bohn. “There is a growing desire among consumers to know more about the origin of the food they purchase, and it is critical that producers are empowered with opportunities to market their high-quality beef in a way that allows them to differentiate the source of their product from competitors and potentially increase profitability.”
For many years, NCBA has supported voluntary efforts which provide producers the opportunity to capture more value through origin labels and corresponding marketing initiatives that are voluntary and source-verified. In lieu of the “Product of the USA” label, NCBA is advocating for a more appropriate generic label, such as “Processed in the USA.” Further, NCBA hopes to work with USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) to proactively educate cattle producers, processors, and retailers about the various opportunities that exist to develop voluntary, verifiable origin marketing claims that deliver tangible benefits to cattle producers without violating rules of trade.
The voluntary labels that NCBA supports represent investments made by producers to continually improve their product and meet consumer demand. Marketing through source-verification will provide a more accurate and truthful description of the product, which will reduce the potential for consumer confusion while increasing the ability for cattle producers to capture additional premiums for their product.
In 2019, NCBA established the Transparency in Labeling Working Group to investigate producer concerns about the “Product of the USA” label. After several months of investigation, research, and discussion, the producer-led working group recommended new policy for NCBA to address these concerns. NCBA producer members approved the policy in 2020, strengthening NCBA’s support for the use of voluntary source of origin claims, and USDA verification of any source of origin claim or label. Moving forward, NCBA’s policy team will work with USDA to ensure origin claims and source labels can only be used if they are from voluntary and verified programs.