June 12, 2018
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Washington, D.C. – Today, the American Grassfed Association (AGA) and the Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM) filed a petition with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Services (FSIS) demanding FSIS policy be changed to ensure only U.S. domestic meat products can be labeled “Product of U.S.A.”
The current policy allows foreign meat to be imported into the United States and bear the label “Product of U.S.A.” if it simply passes through a USDA-inspected plant. The lack of clarity in this policy allows food companies to skirt the federal law and regulations governing labeling and leads to violations of FSIS’s own policies and regulations that clearly mandate truthfulness in labeling by prohibiting false or misleading labeling and practices.
Research outlined in the petition demonstrates U.S. consumers want to know where their food comes from and consumers place a higher financial value on food that is local, regional and from the United States. For consumers, the current labeling practice can lead to the disguising of the true origin of the meat and meat products and allows foreign interests and multi-national corporations to take advantage of increased U.S. market opportunities. This can allow for an unfair market advantage for foreign meat and meat products that not only deceives the consumer, but financially harms U.S. family farmers and independent ranchers.
Joe Maxwell, Executive Director of the Organization for Competitive Markets, said “With the Congressional repeal of mandatory Country of Origin Labeling for beef and pork products, it is imperative that when a company chooses to label its meat products that origin statement be truthful. Allowing foreign profiteers to mislabel meat products plunders the profits of U.S. farmers and ranchers at the expense of U.S. consumers. This is simply criminal.”
Hit hardest by misbranding of U.S. meat products are those U.S. farmers and ranchers who produce grassfed beef. This market opportunity has been the one bright spot in U.S. cattle production with sales nearly doubling annually. Sales of grassfed beef have grown from $17 million in 2012 to $272 million in 2016 with producers seeing as much as a 30% premium for their products.
Carrie Balkcom, Executive Director of the American Grassfed Association, said “In the U.S., the fastest and most profitable livestock market sector is grassfed, and yet today the only ones making a profit from the growing consumer demand are foreign companies and their interests. American grassfed is a superior product, but it is not being allowed a fair opportunity in the market because of our own government policies.”
Will Harris, President of the American Grassfed Association and Founder of White Oak Pastures, Bluffton, GA , said “The Board and Staff of the American Grassfed Association are proud to take this action for the benefit of our membership. When successful, this change will allow previously denied transparency for consumers. It will empower them to support the family ranchers and farmers who are doing the right things for our land and our animals and our local rural communities.”
AGA and OCM will encourage all of those with a stake in our food system to write to USDA FSIS with letters of support once the comment period opens.
American Grassfed Association is national membership-based multi-species organization dedicated to protecting and promoting grassfed producers and grassfed products through education, marketing, research, and government relations.
Organization for Competitive Markets is a national membership-based research and advocacy organization working for open and competitive markets and fair trade in America’s food and agricultural sectors.