The United States Department of Agriculture recently proposed a new rule that would narrow when producers of meat, poultry, and eggs could make U.S.-origin claims about their products.
Under the USDA's current standards, meat and poultry products can generally be labeled with a U.S.-origin claim if the product was processed in the United States -- even if the animals were born, raised, or slaughtered abroad. In response to a number of petitions received from industry associations, the USDA conducted a consumer perception survey, and concluded that its current standard for "Product of USA" claims was, in fact, misleading to consumers.
In USDA's proposed rule, meat, poultry, and egg producers will only be able to make "Product of USA" and "Made in the USA" claims if their single ingredient meat, poultry, and egg products are "derived from animals born, raised, slaughtered, and processed in the United States." For multi-ingredient products, all additional ingredients included in the product (excluding spices and flavorings) must also be of domestic origin.
The proposed rule also permits qualified claims, so long as the product includes a description on the package of how the claim compares to the unqualified claim and a description of "all preparation and processing steps that occurred in the United States." (For example, "Sliced and packaged in the United States using imported pork.) Interestingly, the proposed rule also requires that the qualifying language be positioned "near" the U.S.-origin claim and be no smaller than one-third of the size of the largest letter used in the claim.
In its explanation of the proposed rule, the USDA also explained that the same standards would apply to claims that a meat, poultry, or egg product was made in a particular state or region (such as if a product was "Made in North Carolina").
The USDA is currently accepting public comments on the proposed rule. Comments must be received by May 12, 2023.
In the announcement of the proposed rule, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said, "American consumers expect that when they buy a meat product at the grocery store, the claims they see on the label mean what they say. These proposed changes are intended to provide consumers with accurate information to make informed purchasing decisions.”
If the USDA's new rule is adopted, the USDA's standards will now be closely aligned with the Federal Trade Commission's standards for making U.S.-origin claims, which require a product to be "all or virtually all" made in the United States.
"American consumers expect that when they buy a meat product at the grocery store, the claims they see on the label mean what they say" -- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack