Put forward by South Dakota senators, the bill, the US Beef Integrity Act, seeks to amend the Federal Meat Inspection Act so that the ‘Product of the USA’ label only goes on beef and beef products exclusively derived from one or more animals born, raised and slaughtered in the United States. They believe that the current beef labeling rules are misleading and have created a loophole to allow beef and beef products from cattle born, raised and slaughtered outside of the US to be labeled as US beef
In a statement, US Senator Mike Rounds (R-SD) said: “Our cattle producers offer some of the highest-quality beef in the world. Consumers deserve to know where their food is coming from. When South Dakota families purchase beef labeled ‘Product of the USA,’ they should know with certainty that it is coming from one of our top-quality producers. Today’s beef labeling rules are misleading and allow beef and beef products from cattle born, raised and slaughtered outside of the US to be labeled as US beef. This must be fixed for both consumers and our hardworking producers.”
US Senator John Thune (R-SD) added: “For South Dakota ranchers, ‘Product of the USA’ is far more than a label. It’s a sense of pride, and it represents a way of life. This legislation is straightforward and common sense, two qualities that are often lacking in Washington and are made up for by South Dakotans and their hardworking spirit. It’s with our ranchers and agriculture community in mind that I’m proud to support this bill to give consumers more accurate information about what’s on the grocery store shelf and help showcase America’s beef products – the best in the world – as clearly and as proudly as possible.”
United States Cattlemen's Association truth in labeling committee chairman Danni Beer offered support to the bill. “Despite the repeal of mandatory country-of-origin labeling in 2015, packers and retailers are still labeling beef products with origin claims. USCA finds this practice abhorrent, as it rides on the coattails of the high-quality product US ranchers produce. USCA is working several fronts on Truth in Labeling - addressing both non-labeled and improperly labeled beef and alternative protein products. Our goal is to immediately close this loophole which allows for imported product to be labeled as US beef, and then continue pushing for the reestablishment of a country-of-origin labeling program.”
Although expressing concern about the practices detailed by the senators, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) cautioned against rushing into any legislation. NCBA vice president of government affairs Ethan Lane said: “In general, NCBA members are opposed to requesting additional government regulation on our industry. Until we understand the scope of labeling practices currently being utilized, any rush to regulate is an irresponsible step that can create unnecessary and burdensome government mandates. NCBA is actively seeking information on beef labeling practices.
“The creation of government policy or regulation is a complex process that requires a thorough understanding of the problem and the involvement of many stakeholders. As our industry is fully aware, any rush toward government regulation can create unintended consequences that take years to unwind.”