Beef groups differ on ‘Processed in USA’ label
In June, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association filed a petition with the US Department of Agriculture, asking for a “Processed in the USA” label to be made available for beef.
Current law allows for beef that is processed or repackaged in the U.S. to be labeled as product of the U.S., even if the beef itself was imported, or if the cattle were imported into the U.S.
The change proposed by NCBA would eliminate the “Product of the USA” label currently in use on a voluntary basis, and allow for the voluntary use of a “Processed in the USA” label for beef that is processed, but not necessarily born or raised in the USA.
NCBA says this will not require any documentation or tracing back to the country of origin, since it is not a guarantee that the beef or cattle originated in the U.S., but is simply a more accurate label than the “Product of the USA” label.
“By limiting generic labels to ‘Processed in the U.S.,’ retailers and processers can label their products accurately without the added burden of tracing the product’s origin,” said NCBA in its petition.
NCBA went on to say, “The agency and American beef producers understand the economic, environmental, and social benefits of purchasing beef produced in the United States, but the agency’s long-standing application of ‘Product of USA’ may undermine the consumer’s faith in American-produced beef. While FSIS allows and permits verifiable U.S. origin claims such as “Born, Raised and Harvested in the U.S.,” any incentive to maintain verification is eliminated by the agency’s longstanding policy which allows use of open-ended “Product of USA” claims on the label of any product processed in a federal facility.
NCBA makes clear in its petition that this is not a request to reinstate mandatory country of origin labeling, and that the organization does not desire any labeling that adds a burden on the supply chain, but it references the American consumers’ desire for domestically produced items.
“It is critical to emphasize that the proposed update would not impose any new mandate on the domestic or international supply chain. Nor would it impose any new burden upon anyone who does not choose to make a verified origin claim. This necessary update would simply increase the beef industry’s ability to respond to growing consumer demand for genuine American product,” said NCBA.
DIFFERENCE IN OPINION
The crux of the matter comes down to this: does beef that is processed in the U.S. but derived from imported cattle or imported boxes of beef deserve the “USA” label? R-CALF USA says no.
R-CALF USA doesn’t believe the change will help U.S. cattle producers, and in their official testimony they asked USDA not to grant NCBA its request.
In its comments, R-CALF USA states it strongly opposes the NCBA petition and asserts the petition applies the same inappropriate standard currently in use by the FSIS to allow foreign-origin beef to be commingled with domestic-origin beef under the “Product of the USA” label. It states the NCBA petition incorporates that same standard by allowing beef from foreign cattle to be commingled with domestic cattle under the proposed “Processed in the USA” label.
R-CALF USA further asserts the terms “United States of America” or “USA” functions as a trademark name or geographical indication for United States cattle producers and the beef produced from their cattle. As such, the group argues, the “USA” name itself on a beef product corresponds to the United States of America as the product’s specific origin; it is an indication that the product was produced under the safest, most stringent production practices in the world; and it is associated with the good names and reputations of United States cattle producers, their exceptional animal husbandry practices, their cattle, and their resultant beef.
“The NCBA petition attempts to capitalize on the fact that using “USA” in conjunction with any ancillary language — in this case “Processed in the” — on any beef product will accord that product an advantage in the domestic market. And this would be a clever deception,” R-CALF USA wrote.
R-CALF USA says the petition undermines the interests of U.S. cattle farmers and ranchers who want to retain and capitalize on their good reputations in the marketplace, as well as consumers who deserve to know which country the beef product’s origin, quality and reputation is attributed to. And that, according to R-CALF USA, certainly is not the country where the animal was merely slaughtered.
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