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Cattle Producers Have a Legal "Beef" with USDA

Some cattle producers say confusion at the grocery store over which beef is, and is not, produced in the U.S. hurts their industry. (Alice Welch/USDA)
Some cattle producers say confusion at the grocery store over which beef is, and is not, produced in the U.S. hurts their industry. (Alice Welch/USDA)
June 29, 2017

LINCOLN, Neb. – A group of cattle producers wants Americans to know where their beef is coming from and it’s suing the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The United Stockgrowers of America's Rancher-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund or R-CALF is bringing back the issue of country-of-origin labeling, or COOL.

The group says confusion at the grocery store over which beef is and is not produced in the U.S. hurts the beef industry.

Bill Bullard, CEO of R-CALF, says the repeal of COOL legislation last year put the USDA in violation of the Meat Inspection Act for imported beef.

"We are now in a situation where the USDA has unlawfully designated imported product as a domestic product, and not requiring the labels as to the product's country of origin," he points out.

Bullard notes there are safety concerns associated with imported beef.

Last week, the USDA halted imports of Brazilian beef for five meat-packers over health concerns.

Bullard also says surveys show as many as 90 percent of Americans want to know where their beef is coming from.

Around 20 percent of beef sold in the U.S. is imported and marked, along with domestic beef, with a U.S. inspection label. Bullard says that confusion drives down prices, ultimately hurting small farmers and ranchers.

"How are we going to maintain a viable family farm system of agriculture in the United States if we are allowing the meatpackers to source beef from the cheapest possible country, and then pass it off to unsuspecting consumers using the good names and reputations of U.S. farmers and ranchers?" he states.

COOL has been an issue of contention in the North American Free Trade Agreement or NAFTA. In 2015, the World Trade Organization found U.S. meat labeling regulations disproportionately burdened meat producers in Canada and Mexico.



Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - NE