The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) aims to close a regulatory loophole that enables meat and poultry producers to label their products as “Made in the U.S.A.” even when the animals are born and raised and much of the processing takes place in a different country.
The announcement Monday was praised by the United States Cattlemen’s Association (USCA), a trade organization that has advocated for tightening up the regulation. The group noted in a statement that current regulations allow beef imports to undergo as small a change as trimming or rewrapping and then be labeled as “Product of U.S.A.” or “Made in the U.S.A.”
Under the proposed change, any meat, poultry or egg product would have to be “derived from animals born, raised, slaughtered and processed in the United States” in order to be labeled as a U.S. product. The USDA noted that the proposed change is a key component of President Joe Biden’s executive order, Promoting Competition in the American Economy.
“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,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement. “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.”
A survey in the summer of 2022 revealed that nearly two-thirds of respondents (63%) incorrectly believe that all production steps must take place in the United States for manufacturers to apply the label, the USDA said.
“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,” U.S. Cattlemen’s Association President Justin Tuppe said in a statement. “If it says ‘Made in the USA,’ then it should be from cattle that have only known U.S.A soil. Consumers have the right to know where their food comes from, full stop.”