The Biden administration is looking to increase the requirements for labeling meat, poultry and eggs sold in the U.S. with claims of "Product of USA" or "Made in the USA," the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Monday.
The federal agency proposed a rule that would allow products to bear the voluntary labels "only when they are derived from animals born, raised, slaughtered and processed in the United States," closing the loophole that currently allows for meat from animals born and raised in another country but imported to and then processed in the U.S. to be labeled as American products.
"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."
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The USDA said part of its reasoning for upping the requirements came from a survey it conducted last year, that found the current "Product of USA" labeling claims are misleading to a majority of consumers because a significant number of respondents assumed such products were made from animals born, raised, slaughtered and processed in the U.S.
American ranching, farming, rural and consumer groups have been pushing for more stringent labeling requirements for years, arguing the current rules hurt U.S. producers and are misleading to grocery shoppers.
Earlier this year, a bipartisan group of lawmakers offered legislation that would bring back mandatory country-of-origin labeling (MCOOL) for beef products under similar standards, but in a way that complies with World Trade Organization (WTO) rules.
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The WTO has rejected prior MCOOL standards, after other countries including Canada, China, and Mexico pushed back claiming the USDA's labeling standards violated America's obligation under the WTO agreement by unfairly discrimination against imported livestock and meat.
Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., hailed the USDA's latest rule change proposal.
"For years, we’ve called on the USDA to take action to stop foreign beef from receiving the ‘Product of USA’ label," Rounds tweeted Monday following the announcement. "I’ve met with Secretary Vilsack, introduced legislation since 2019 and submitted multiple comments to USDA. Today, our work is finally paying off."
"This announcement is a victory for American consumers and producers," the senator added. "The USDA’s ruling is a major step in the right direction, and I applaud Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack for taking the necessary actions to fix this label.
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Reuters contributed to this report.