New “Product of USA” rule put forth by Biden Administration
By: Sydney Sheffield
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has proposed new requirements for the voluntary “Product of USA” claim. The proposed rule allows the voluntary “Product of USA” or “Made in the USA” label claim to be used on meat, poultry, and egg products only when they are derived from animals born, raised, slaughtered, and processed in the United States.
This rule comes as part of President Joe Biden’s 2021 executive order Promoting Competition in the American Economy, and a commitment made in the action plan, Administration’s Action Plan for a Fairer, More Competitive, and More Resilient Meat, and Poultry Supply Chain.
Currently, existing rules for the label permit its use for meat derived from animals that were born and raised abroad and only processed in the United States, which the nation's farmers and ranchers had argued disadvantaged domestic producers. USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is taking this action to resolve consumer confusion surrounding current voluntary label claims related to the origin of FSIS-regulated products in the U.S. marketplace.
FSIS released the results of a national survey and found that the claim is confusing to consumers. In the survey, only 16% of eligible consumers identified the correct definition for the “Product of USA” claim. Sixty-three percent provided an incorrect response (most believed all production steps must take place in the United States), and 21% said they did not know.
“American consumers expect that when they buy a meat product at the grocery store, the claims they see on the label mean what they say,” said USDA Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “These proposed changes are intended to provide consumers with accurate information to make informed purchasing decisions. Our action today affirms USDA’s commitment to ensuring accurate and truthful product labeling.”
Under the proposed rule, the “Product of USA” label claim would continue to be voluntary. It would also remain eligible for generic label approval, meaning it would not need to be pre-approved by USDA’s FSIS before it could be used on a regulated product but would require supporting documentation to be on file for agency inspection personnel to verify. The rulemaking also proposes to allow other voluntary U.S.-origin claims we see on meat, poultry, and egg products sold in the marketplace. These claims would need to include a description of the package of all preparation and processing steps that occurred in the United States upon which the claim is made.
Some in the agriculture community are not satisfied with the proposed rule. National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) Executive Director of Government Affairs Kent Bacus said in a press release, "There is no question that the current “Product of USA” label for beef is flawed, and it undercuts the ability of U.S. cattle producers to differentiate U.S. beef in the marketplace. For the past few years, NCBA’s grassroots-driven efforts have focused on addressing problems with the existing label, and we will continue working to find a voluntary, trade-compliant solution that promotes product differentiation and delivers profitable solutions and for U.S. cattle producers. Simply adding born, raised, and harvested requirements to an already broken label will fail to deliver additional value to cattle producers and it will undercut true voluntary, market-driven labels that benefit cattle producers. We cannot afford to replace one flawed government label with another flawed government label."
On the other hand, The U.S. Cattlemen’s Association’s President Justin Tupper is content with the proposed rule, stating, “USCA is pleased to see that the proposed rule finally closes this loophole by accurately defining what these voluntary origin claims mean, something we have been working to clarify since the repeal of mandatory country-of-origin labeling in 2015. If it says, ‘Made in the USA,’ then it should be from cattle that have only known USA soil. Consumers have the right to know where their food comes from, full stop.”
The comment period for the proposed rule ends on May 12, 2023. Read the proposed rule and submit a comment here.