Challenge to Labeling Meat Imports as ‘Product of USA’
The Washington, DC-headquartered American Grassfed Association (AGA) and the Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM) has filed a petition with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Services (FSIS) demanding FSIS policy be changed to ensure only US domestic meat products can be labeled “Product of USA.”
The current policy allows foreign meat to be imported into the United States and bear the label “Product of USA” if it simply passes through a USDA-inspected plant. According to the petitioners, he lack of clarity in this policy allows food companies to skirt the federal law and regulations governing labeling and leads to violations of FSIS’s own policies and regulations that clearly mandate truthfulness in labeling by prohibiting false or misleading labeling and practices.
Research outlined in the petition demonstrates that American consumers want to know where their food comes from and place a higher financial value on food that is local, regional and from the United States.
“For consumers, the current labeling practice can lead to the disguising of the true origin of the meat and meat products and allows foreign interests and multinational corporations to take advantage of increased US market opportunities,” according to the petitioners. “This can allow for an unfair market advantage for foreign meat and meat products that not only deceives the consumer, but financially harms US family farmers and independent ranchers.”
Joe Maxwell, executive director of the Organization for Competitive Markets, stated: “With the Congressional repeal of mandatory Country of Origin Labeling for beef and pork products, it is imperative that when a company chooses to label its meat products that origin statement be truthful. Allowing foreign profiteers to mislabel meat products plunders the profits of US farmers and ranchers at the expense of US consumers. This is simply criminal.”
Hit hard by misbranding of US meat products are American farmers and ranchers who produce grassfed beef. This market opportunity has been a bright spot in US cattle production, with sales nearly doubling annually. Sales of grassfed beef have grown from $17 million in 2012 to $272 million in 2016, with producers seeing as much as a 30% premium for their products.
“In the US, the fastest and most profitable livestock market sector is grassfed, and yet today the only ones making a profit from the growing consumer demand are foreign companies and their interests,” claimed Carrie Balkcom, executive director of the AGA. “American grassfed is a superior product, but it is not being allowed a fair opportunity in the market because of our own government policies.”