Stockton: USDA labeling survey
USDA has announced that they will conduct a survey to find out how much consumers are willing to pay in order for USDA to stop lying. The “Product of USA” label is consumer fraud, and USDA is under pressure from Congress and the President to stop the lying. In response, and apparently in an effort to buy time, USDA proposes instead to do a survey. USDA will ask three questions:
1. Do consumers notice the “Product of USA” labeling claim?
2 Do consumers understand the current “Product of USA” definition and other “USDA” labeling (such as “USDA Choice”) as it relates to country of origin?
3. How much are consumers willing to pay for meat products bearing the “Product of USA” labeling claim for the current definition and potential revised definitions (such as if the meat were from an animal that was born, raised, slaughtered, and processed in the United States)?
Fraud is fraud! How else can one interpret a label on imported beef that once it has been repackaged in this country, qualifies it to be marketed as a Product of USA? Clearly, consumers are paying more for beef because they assume that the label means what it says. Why on earth would consumers be willing to pay more to not be lied to?
The simple and ethical thing for USDA is to disallow the use of the label unless it is in fact a – product of the USA. If a beef importer wants to claim that the meat in question had been repackaged in the USA, well they can say so. Nothing is stopping them. But repackaging and then claiming that makes it a “Product of the USA” is fraud.
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) in their self-appointed role as protector of the global meat cartel, wants USDA to allow instead a label saying “Produced in the USA.” This language is just as fraudulent. There is no need for a survey or a disingenuous change in the wording. The best course is for USDA to just eliminate the label completely because American beef producers and American beef consumers don’t need imported beef masquerading as a product of the USA.
However, there is a bill in the Senate that will restore truthful country of origin labeling. “The American Beef Labeling Act,” is currently gathering co-sponsors. Sponsors in the Rocky Mountain area includes Senators Rounds, and Thune from South Dakota, Senators Barroso and Lummis from Wyoming, Senator Hoeven from North Dakota , and Senator Tester from Montana. You will notice that Senator Cramer from North Dakota and Senator Daines from Montana are conspicuously absent.
Call them (Daines at 406-453-0148 or Cramer at 701-699-7020) and tell them that they need to sponsor the American Beef Labeling Act. If they answer that they are already sponsoring the “USA Beef Act,” thank them but point out that the “USA Beef Act” addresses only the “Product of USA” fraud, but the “American Beef Labeling Act” restores true country of origin labeling. Tell them a label that proudly proclaims that this beef was –Born, Raised, and Processed in the USA – is the only acceptable label.
Gilles Stockton, President Montana Cattlemen’s Assn.
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Earl cartoon by Big Dry Syndicate for the May 14, 2022, edition of Tri-State Livestock News