BILLINGS, MONT. — Congress and the US Department of Agriculture have been in the process of clarifying mandatory country of origin labeling (MCOOL). However, the trade association Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF USA) wants to see immediate action. The group released findings from a recent survey conducted by the Morning Consult on Americans’ perspective of reinstating MCOOL, indicating that consumers from across the nation and regardless of party affiliation favor further transparency.
“Too many members of Congress talk favorably about reinstating mandatory country of origin labeling for beef, but they have not yet joined the legislation as cosponsors,” said Bill Bullard, chief executive officer of R-CALF USA. “Our new poll makes it clear that an overwhelming number of American voters want Congress to enact MCOOL for beef, and they demonstrated this with their specific support for the American Beef Labeling Act. We hope lawmakers will carefully review this poll and quickly join this legislation as cosponsors to ensure its swift enactment.”
Key findings from the poll include:
- Voters want the beef they purchase to be American-made. Three quarters of respondents (77%) say it is important that the beef they purchase was born, raised and harvested in the United States.
- Concern over current food safety regulations for beef is high among US voters. Nine in ten respondents (90%) say it is concerning those foreign importers of beef can legally put a ‘Product of USA’ sticker on a package containing beef born, raised and harvested outside the United States.
- Support for the American Beef Labeling Act is strong. Eighty-six percent of voters show support for the legislation.
- When thinking about the upcoming elections, there is bipartisan support for the American Beef Labeling Act. Nearly three-quarters of Democrats (72%) and four in five Republicans (79%) say they are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports the American Beef Labeling Act.
The American Beef Labeling Act was initially introduced in 2021 by US Senators John Thune (R-SD), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Mike Rounds (R-SD) and Cory Booker (D-NJ). The legislation would require the US Trade Representative (USTR), in consultation with the US Secretary of Agriculture, to develop a World Trade Organization-compliant means of reinstating MCOOL for beef within one year of enactment.
“Transparency in labeling benefits both producers and consumers,” Thune said. “Unfortunately, the current beef labeling system in this country allows imported beef that is neither born nor raised in the United States, but simply finished here, to be labeled as a product of the USA. This process is unfair to cattle producers and misleading for consumers. When you see a ‘product of the USA’ label on the grocery store shelf, it should mean just that.”
On July 1, 2021, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) finalized a new rule to enforce the accuracy of “Product of USA” claims. In response, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack commended the FTC on its actions, and he added that USDA would conduct its own rulemaking to address the transparency concerns.
“I am committed to ensuring that the Product of USA label reflects what a plain understanding of those terms means to US consumers,” he said. “Throughout the rulemaking process, we will be asking questions, collecting data and requesting comments. And we will be considering all ideas suggested by the whole range of stakeholders, including our trading partners with whom we will engage to ensure that this labeling initiative is implemented in a way that fulfills our commitment to working cooperatively with our trade partners and meeting our international trade obligations.”