Ranch Group Asks FTC for Assistance to Correct USDA’s Unlawful Beef Labeling Regime
Jody Heemstra, DRGNews (SD)
Sep 15, 2020
In comments filed Sept. 14, 2020, with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), R-CALF USA asks the FTC to provide any assistance possible to correct the substantive conflicts between existing federal law and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) past, present and future meat labeling schemes.
In its comments, the ranch group alleges the USDA has long been violating the Tariff Act of 1930 that requires imported beef to retain its foreign country of origin label all the way to the ultimate consumer, unless the beef or beef product is subjected to substantial transformation. However, the USDA only requires only minimal processing, such as repackaging the product, for the importer to remove the foreign label and replace it with a “Product of USA” label.
The group further alleges the USDA’s meat labeling policy is in direct conflict with the current mandatory country of origin labeling (mCOOL) law that continues to apply to lamb, chicken and other food commodities. The comments state that while USDA’s policy allows foreign lamb to bear a USA label when it too is subjected to only minimal processing, the mCOOL law expressly states that lamb cannot bear a United States designation unless it is from an animal that is exclusively born, raised, and slaughtered in the United States.
The comments informs the FTC that the USDA, which is supposed to work to strengthen America’s family farm and ranch system of agriculture, instead consistently kowtows to a very small group of powerful players within the industry to assist them in deceptively labeling their foreign products in a manner that harms the vast majority of American cattle farmers and ranchers.
The group states the USDA is misleading the public by claiming the North American beef supply chain is highly integrated and that United States beef packers are dependent on importing large numbers of cattle from Canada and Mexico in the agency’s defense of a beef labeling scheme that ignores the country of origin of cattle.
Instead, the group says that imported cattle make up less than 6% of the cattle slaughtered in the United States, indicating that the USDA is catering to only a handful of multinational beef packers...