The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been served with a federal lawsuit this week by three groups--Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America, and the Cattle Producers of Washington--all ranchers who want imported meat labels to display what country those products originated from.
Last spring, USDA decided against including country-of-origin labels on meat products, a practice that was in place from 2009 to 2016. The ranchers claim that undoing this regulation is in violation of the U.S.’s Meat Inspection Act, which does require meat slaughtered in other countries to be labeled and identified as such.
In the lawsuit, the rancher groups are asking USDA to throw out current meat labeling laws. Currently, regulations allow companies that import meat products into the U.S.--including beef and pork--to display “Product of USA”, even though the meat was slaughtered elsewhere. These meat products tend to be cheaper than those that do originate in the U.S., which is a major concern for farmers and ranchers.
Consumer advocates are fighting for country-of-origin labels, arguing that people want--and deserve--to know where their meat comes from. They also believe that clear labeling will help Americans to support the American beef industry, and by extension the American economy. Labeling advocates believe that unclear or absent labeling means not only more meat will be imported from foreign countries, but it also allows more imported meat that may not meet the best safety standards.
USDA is not commenting on the lawsuit as litigation is still pending.
More on meat labeling:
Country-of-Origin Meat Labeling Plans Slaughtered Again by Congress
WTO Slaughters Meat Labeling Plans... Again
WTO Concludes That U.S. Country-of-Origin Meat Labeling is Unfair