This week South Dakota Senators John Thune (R-SD) and Mike Rounds (R-SD) introduced a bill to amend the Federal Meat Inspection Act to modify requirements that meat is labeled “Product of U.S.A.”
In a statement about the bill, Senator Rounds stated that consumers deserved to know where their food is coming from, and that a product labeled “Product of the U.S.A.” should come from a top-quality American producer.
“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,” Rounds continued.
The United States Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) was quick to lend its support to the new bill, with its Truth in Labeling Committee Chairman Danni 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 senators also sent a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue supporting USCA’s petition requesting the establishment of labeling requirements.
While USCA applauded the efforts of the bill, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) took a more measured approach in its reaction.
“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,” says NCBA vice president, government affairs, Ethan Lane. “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. 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,” Lane continued.
“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,” he concluded.
The bill must pass in the Senate before it can move on to the House and President before potentially becoming law.
A separate, but related, bill was also introduced October 31, in hopes of the reestablishment of a country-of-origin labeling (COOL) program by Senator Jon Tester (D-MT). The resolution puts forth a firm statement of support for COOL, which was repealed in 2015.