Imperfect as it is, the “Product of USA” label is good enough for government work, according to a 2-to-1 decision by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.
On appeal, the dismissal of a 2020 case brought by New Mexico cattle ranchers Robin Thornton and Michael Lucero. They claimed that foreign beef was often mislabeled as “Product of the USA”
So-called “big meats,” including Tyson Foods, Cargill Meat Solutions, JBS USA and National Beef Packing Co., have all been named defendants in the case in federal court. The case was on appeal to the 10th Circuit after being dismissed by the district court last year. The decision of the Court of Appeal upheld the dismissal.
This means that cattle born and raised in another country can still be sold as “product of the United States” if simple processing takes place in the United States.
“Allowing Complainants to impose (a different labeling standard) would impose a different requirement than what the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has already approved as complying with federal food safety law. meat inspection,” said Denver Circuit Judge Nancy Moritz.
She wrote the 21-page decision.
FSIS allows the “Protect of the USA” label on meat that is “further processed” in the United States. It’s a system that’s sure to fool consumers, according to US meat companies.
Denver Circuit Court Senior Judge Carlos Lucero wrote a minority opinion. He said it was misleading to put a “Product of USA” label on products from animals primarily raised outside the United States.
The breeders also presented misleading state labeling claims, and the 10th Circuit’s ruling found that the state’s issues were preempted by federal law.
Judge Lucero said the case was “a paradigmatic example of the federal-state balance intended by Congress” in enacting the Federal Meat Inspection Act (MNIA). He said if consumers are misled by the “Product of USA” label, then that label violates both FMIA and USDA regulations.
“Certainly Congress would not have intended to condone the deception as to the national origin of the beef,” the judge wrote.
Livestock producers and consumers are not giving up. They are now campaigning for the American Beef Labeling Act (S.2716), sponsored by senators from both political parties,
It will reinstate mandatory beef country of origin (M-COOL) labeling. It ensures that consumers know where their beef is born, raised, slaughtered and processed.
Breeders believe it also helps create a level playing field for American ranchers by helping them get a fair price.
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