Rule change would require meat labeled 'Product of USA' to come from the U.S.
A proposed federal rule change would tighten requirements for packers to label their meat and poultry “Product of USA.” Some Montana ranchers are praising the move.
Current U.S. Department of Agriculture rules allow meatpackers to voluntarily use the “Product of USA” label as long as the product was packaged within the U.S. — even if the meat or poultry was imported from another country.
A November report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture found 63% of consumers did not know the correct meaning of the label on meat and poultry under current agency rules. The proposed change would align the agency’s policy with what the majority of consumers already think — that food labeled “Product of USA” is born, raised, slaughtered and packaged in the country.
Gilles Stockton is rancher and past president of the Montana Cattlemen’s Association.
“Proposing this rule will eliminate what amounts to consumer fraud,” Stockman said.
Stockton says the proposed requirements for the label would be a step in the right direction for food transparency, but that his organization is still pushing for legislation known as “country-of-origin labeling.” While it’s currently required by law that imported poultry, lamb and fish be labeled with the country they came from, Congress removed beef and pork from that list in 2015 in an effort to comply with the World Trade Organization.
U.S. Democratic Sen. Jon Tester also praised the proposed rule change in a statement, but added he’s working to reinstate mandatory country-of-origin labeling at a federal level with his “American Beef Labeling Act” reintroduced in January.
Efforts to reinstate country-of-origin labeling in Montana stalled in the Legislature last month after a committee tabled a bill that sought to work around federal law by requiring grocers to display placards next to beef and pork products originating in the U.S. Opponents said the law would place an undue burden on grocery stores.