“Where’s the beef…from?”
You’ll never know by just examining the supermarket package’s contents.
The problem started in 2015, when the B. Obama administration’s USDA decided to ignore food safety regulations, and rolled back Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) for both beef and pork products, allowing meat to be sold without disclosing its home country on the label.
The result: meat can now be sold without disclosing the home country on the label.
But it gets even worse.
Because of the way regulations were written, beef and pork products shipped to the United States, and just processed here, can be labeled “product of U.S.A.”
Imagine this effervescent scenario.
Sammy the Steer is visited daily by the Texas rancher’s daughter, who feeds him handfuls of grass, while singing “Someday, My Prince Will Come.”
Years pass and Sammy ends up at your local supermarket, labeled “grass-fed beef produced in America.”
And then consider this beef story:
Kangaroos nipping at his hooves, Aussie the Lanky Outcast fights for a few brown clumps on a Melbourne hill, shivering from rumors that someday he would be killed and devoured at a Bostonite barbecue.
Years pass and Aussie ends up at your local supermarket, labeled “grass-fed beef produced in America.”
The grass-fed farmers in America are not happy.
U.S. producers owned more than 60 percent of the domestic grass-fed beef market in 2014 just before the COOL repeal.
By 2017, American ranchers’ share had plunged to just 20 to 25 percent, and today American producers claim only about 15 percent of the grass-fed market.
Joe Fassler, who writes for The New Food Economy is battling for honest labeling and offered this glaring example of misleading claims:
Bubba Foods, a Jacksonville, Florida-based company whose products are sold by major retailers like Walmart, Kroger, and Wegman’s, puts its American-made claims front and center. The label on the company’s grass-fed ground beef displays a prominent “Product of USA” banner, complete with an American flag—and, if that wasn’t enough, the proud phrase “Born & Raised in the USA.”
Any producer who wants to sell a commercial grass-fed beef product has to file an affidavit with USDA’s Food Standards Inspection Service (FSIS), laying out the agricultural practices it will use and submitting an example of their product label.
A nutritional analysis (Bubba Foods) describes the product as “import grass-fed” beef. It also includes an import record from Australia, noting that an “Australian National Vendor Declaration” will certify the product’s grass-feeding regime, Fassler explained..
Under COOL government standards, beef imported from various countries, mixed with U.S. beef can then labeled “raised in America” – since part of the total production was raised here.
Imported or American, everything in your supermarket has the USDA inspected label., and some have the USDA organic seal. That applies now equally to both imported and American-born beef.
Two organizations have joined the fight against this mislabeling – the American Grass fed Association (AGA) and the Organization for Competitive Markets.
Last month, they filed a formal petition with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), urging an end to the product safety rollback.
You may view that document here: Beef.pdf.