The Montana Cattlemen’s Association (MCA) believes most American consumers want to know about the food they eat and where it was produced. In the case of beef, the origin of the product is very important. US producers are required to follow strict standards on how our animals are treated, what they are fed, and what drugs they receive. Every animal slaughtered here must pass premortem and postmortem USDA inspections before it can enter the retail and prepared food market. It is highly doubtful that all the imported beef follows all of these strict standards.
Since the repeal of the original MCOOL, the blatant misuse of the Product of USA label has pulled the wool over the eyes of the consumer. We feel American consumers and cattle producers deserve to have more respect and rights than the huge multi-national processors that process over 80% of our product. They profit from the current situation of “beef is beef no matter where in the world it is produced”, while the consumers are being taken advantage of and U.S. cattle producers receive even less of each dollar spent on beef.
In this case, it appears that the only way to force change is through legislation. MCA fully backs the proposed bills circulating in the US Congress that will allow beef to be properly labeled with its country of origin.
Senate Bill S.2716, The American Beef Labeling Act of 2021, we feel is very important because it calls for a mandatory “Origin: USA” label to be placed on product that is born, raised, and slaughtered in the USA. All other beef that does not fit these criteria will not have to be labeled as to origin; but it will also be illegal to be labeled with the Product of USA label. When enacted, it will be World Trade Organization compliant so we do not take the chance of having it repealed again. And yes, it is still hard to understand why any outside organization can dictate to us what we can and can’t do within our own country. Let’s hope our government is on our side this time.
We feel this will be very easy to implement because it had been done up until late 2015. Most of that same infrastructure is still in place from processor through wholesaler through retailer. Prepared food services, such as restaurants, could placard their establishments as to the origin of their beef or even identify each item on their menu if they preferred.
We also agree that Senate Bill S.2623 and House Bill HR 4973, both titled the USA Beef Act, would complement the American Beef Labeling Act. Our consumers are very used to seeing the Made in USA label. If the label was used correctly, it would have tremendous impact on their buying habits. The threat of possible fines administered by the USDA (which currently appears to turn a blind eye to the deceptive use of the Product of USA label) would be a very welcome change.
In closing, the current political regime in power in Washington appears to be in favor of only purchasing products produced in the USA as stated in an issued executive order. The Secretary of Agriculture and the FTC are also in favor of a truthful label with possible fines for violators. We are still going to have an uphill battle to get these bills through, but now is the time to try.
Montana Board of Directors