USDA to review beef labeling problems


By National Cattlemen Beef Association,

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a top-to-bottom review of the “Product of the USA” (POTUSA) label, which will inform a forthcoming rulemaking on this topic. NCBA has long-advocated for voluntary labels that meet consumer demand and allow producers to distinguish their products in the marketplace, and recently filed a petition with USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS) to eliminate the use of POTUSA and other broad U.S. origin labeling claims for beef products. NCBA commends USDA for the prompt action to address industry concerns regarding the misleading nature of this generic label.

“The ‘Product of the USA’ label is not subject to source verification, is not tied to any kind of food safety standard, and is applied by packers and retailers in a manner that does not deliver value back to the cattle producer. This label not only misleads consumers, it is yet another barrier to producers gaining leverage and distinguishing their product in the marketplace,” said NCBA President Jerry Bohn. “NCBA members have voiced concerns about the potentially misleading use of the label and we thank USDA for responding to those concerns and recognizing that non-source verified labels are a disservice to producers and consumers alike. We look forward to working with USDA to find labeling solutions that represent investments made by producers to continually improve their product and meet consumer demand.”

USDA’s announcement came after the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) held a public hearing on FTC-2020-0056, Made in USA Rulemaking, Matter No. P074204. The Commission voted 3-2 in favor of the final rule, to take effect 30 days after publication in the Federal Register. The new rule will strengthen FTC’s authority to enforce “Made in USA” labels. NCBA submitted comments on the proposed rule in 2020. NCBA’s comments reminded the FTC that USDA has primary jurisdiction over all meat food product oversight activities, including the approval and verification of geographic and origin labeling claims.

While the FTC and USDA announcements may have similarities, NCBA believes that USDA is the best-equipped agency to properly oversee beef labeling and we support USDA’s continued jurisdiction over labeling of meat food products.

NCBA’s grassroots policy supports a more appropriate generic label, such as “Processed in the USA.” In addition, NCBA stands ready to work with USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) to proactively educate cattle producers, processors, and retailers about the various opportunities that exist to develop voluntary, verifiable origin marketing claims that deliver tangible benefits to cattle producers without violating rules of trade.