BILLINGS, Mont. – A group of more than 50 farm, ranch, manufacturing and other organizations collaborated on a letter urging US Sens. Mike Rounds (R-SD) and John Thune (R-SD) to amend their recent US Beef Integrity Act (S.2744) (Act) by including it “within a comprehensive mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL) bill” for beef and pork.

The Act is a voluntary measure that would reserve the US label only for meat that is exclusively born, raised, and slaughtered in the US. The letter explains the organizations’ concern the US Beef Integrity Act corrects the one problem of foreign beef mislabeled as “Product of USA,” but unintentionally undercuts the groups’ efforts to fully reinstate mandatory COOL for beef and pork.

The letter states, “Attempting to correct this single problem with stand-alone legislation, rather than reinstating mandatory COOL in its entirety, will unnecessarily complicate the efforts of US cattle and hog farmers who desire to have their exclusively US-produced beef and pork differentiated in America's consumer market.”

The organizations involved also argue that providing a statutory change to what constitutes beef and pork labeled “Product of USA” would conflict with the system covering meats such as chicken and lamb. Chicken and lamb remain subject to mandatory COOL, and thus the “Product of [Country X]” label is applicable only to imported chicken and lamb products, and there is never a “Product of USA” label on those meats. They state it would be less confusing for consumers and better for American ranchers for beef and pork to be reinstated under the COOL labeling system already in place for these other meats.

The groups conclude the letter by reiterating their interest in in correcting the mislabeling of imported beef but believe that addressing the issue in a stand-alone voluntary measure hurts their ongoing effort to fully restore mandatory COOL for beef and pork.

“For this reason, we urge you to help us achieve our objective by amending S.2744 so cattle and hog producers in South Dakota and all other states will, once again, have the ability to offer their exclusively US-produced meat products to American consumers,” the letter states.