BILLINGS, MONT. – The Ranchers Cattlemen Action Legal Fund United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF USA) came out against a petition asking the US Department of Agriculture to eliminate the “Product of the USA” label in favor of a “Processed in the USA” label. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) submitted the petition in June.

The NCBA’s proposal would allow, without additional documentation or review, the voluntary use of the claim “Processed in the USA” on any federally inspected product. More specific voluntary claims, such as “Raised and Harvested in the USA” would continue to require review, verification, and oversight within the FSIS label approval system. NCBA’s proposed labeling rule would also enable processors to explore the development of related Process Verified Programs (PVPs) through AMS or alternative third-party certification systems.

But in comments submitted to USDA, R-CALF said petition attempts to preserve the ability of importers to commingle meat from beef cattle raised abroad with meat produced from animals raised and slaughtered in the United States.

“R-CALF USA strongly opposes the NCBA petition that merely substitutes one inappropriate standard for another, and yet accomplishes the same inappropriate objective of allowing beef derived from foreign cattle to bear what is essentially the US cattle producer’s exclusive trademark — ‘United States of America’ or ‘USA,’” R-CALF said in its comments.

The organization argued that the term, “United States of America” or “USA” is a trademark name or geographical indication for US cattle producers and the beef produced from their cattle regardless of any accompanying language.

“The ‘USA’ name itself on a beef product corresponds to the United States of America as the product’s specific origin; it is an indication that the product was produced under the safest, most stringent production practices in the world; and it is associated with the good names and reputations of United States cattle producers, their exceptional animal husbandry practices, their cattle, and their resultant beef,” R-CALF said. “It is widely known that beef labeled as ‘USA’ beef is coveted the world over.”

The NCBA petition undermines the interests of US cattle producers and ranchers who want to retain and capitalize on the reputation of US beef in the marketplace, as well as consumers who want to know about the origins of the foods they buy.

“And that certainly is not the country where the animal was merely slaughtered,” R-CALF said.

USDA is moving forward with a review the “Product of USA” label for meat which is managed by the Food Safety and Inspection (FSIS).

In July, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said, “We have taken note of the many comments submitted to USDA and the FTC regarding meat labeling and understand that the current ‘Product of USA’ label on meat products may no longer effectively serve either of those purposes, to the detriment of consumers, producers, and fair and competitive markets