Background

The White House and Congress are both taking steps toward revising rules on “made in USA” labels for meat, with changes possible later this year.

Under current Department of Agriculture rules, meat and poultry products that were derived from animals that may have been born, raised, and slaughtered in another country but are processed in the U.S. may be labeled as “product of USA.” However, after determining that this policy “may be causing confusion in the marketplace, particularly with respect to certain imported meat products,” USDA announced in July 2021 plans to initiate a rulemaking to limit “product of USA” and certain other voluntary U.S. origin statements to meat products derived from livestock slaughtered and processed in the U.S.

To inform that rulemaking USDA said it would conduct a top-to-bottom review of the labeling rules, taking into account all ideas suggested by all stakeholders, including U.S. trading partners. A previous origin labeling requirement for meat products was struck down by the World Trade Organization years ago and various efforts have been made since then to devise a policy compliant with WTO rules.

On Jan. 3, as part of a new action plan for a “fairer, more competitive, and more resilient meat and poultry supply chain,” the White House noted that USDA’s review is continuing and that the department still plans to issue new labeling rules, though no time frame was specified.

In the meantime, Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) introduced Jan. 4 the Bona Fide Beef Branding Act (S. 3439), which would direct the USDA to eliminate the current “product of USA” meat label and replace it with three new voluntary labels to address consumer confusion. In a September 2021 letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Marshall said these labels could include “processed in the USA,” “raised and processed in the USA,” and “born, raised, and processed in the USA.”

Other similar bills have been introduced in recent months, including the American Beef Labeling Act (S. 2716, introduced Sept. 13 by Sen. Thune, R-S.D.), which would require the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative to develop and implement within one year a WTO-compliant means of reinstating mandatory country of origin labeling for beef, and the USA Beef Act (S. 2623, introduced Aug. 5 by Sen. Rounds, R-S.D., and H.R. 4973, introduced Aug. 6 by Rep. Rosedale, R-Mont.), which would limit the use of the “product of USA” label on beef products to those produced from cows born, raised, and slaughtered in the U.S.

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