Imported Meat May be Labeled “Product of USA”

How is this “America First” at all? This is another measure by the Trump administration that directly harms the country.

The self-proclaimed nationalist, pro-rancher Trump Administration has decided to let Industrial Agriculture flat-out lie to meat-eating American consumers about where their food was raised.

The timing of this betrayal is pretty ironic. We have made summer into a celebration of American freedom, and its central image is the unencumbered back yard barbeque.

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The official embrace of deceptive labeling isn’t just bad for consumers—it hurts independent U.S. farmers, too. Without country-of-origin labeling, corporations can (and do) pass off any of their meat as domestic, even if it was born, raised and slaughtered abroad. This turns out to give Big Ag a valuable tool.  Major multinational meat packers use their international supply chains and misleading labels as leverage to drive down the prices they pay independent farmers.

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Ranchers’ groups, represented by Public Justice, just filed a federal lawsuit arguing that the USDA’s policy violates the Meat Inspection Act, which clearly requires country-of-origin labeling on imported steaks and chops. And if you don’t believe our suit, believe the USDA itself: The department had COOL requirements in place for eight years, and it did so in order to be in compliance with the Meat Inspection Act.

In other words, the USDA knows its current policies don’t follow the law; it is just captured by corporate interests. It’s time for that to change.

Back when he was a candidate, Donald Trump promised that he would fix this problem for U.S. farmers. But immediately after the election, Trump’s team broke that promiseand caved to the agriculture lobby, declaring COOL “dead as a doornail.” With this suit, we’re doing what Trump won’t—taking on big agriculture to fight for independent ranchers.

Our lawsuit has a simple premise:  If our meat is labeled as a “Product of U.S.A,” we should be able to trust that it was raised here, by U.S. ranchers.

Related from 2016: U.S. no longer has a meat origin labeling law due to a WTO ruling, despite how that law received 90% American approval.

LORI WALLACH: So, that’s what I was mentioning before. So, you know, everyone go—you go to the grocery store, if you’re a meat eater, and you pick up the package, and it says where the meat was born, raised and processed. And that is a huge fight. It took 50 years for us consumer groups to actually get mandatory country-of-origin labeling for meat. And that was enacted in the 2008 Farm Bill. So, we’ve all been using that. It also is very helpful, because you know if there’s been a food safety outbreak someplace, you know don’t buy from there. It also helps with tracing, because if, for instance, hamburger is mixed from 50 different countries, you’d have to list all the countries, so it creates an incentive to actually know where the meat comes from, as well as gives us consumers the information to make informed choices.

The World Trade Organization recently issued a final ruling saying, unless we ixnay that law, we were going to face billions in trade sanctions. And the history of this is, the U.S. meatpacking industry, plus their Canadian and Mexican counterparts, didn’t want this law. And they tried in federal court. They tried to fight us in Congress. It only took 50 years, we finally won. The law becomes the law of the land. And the polling shows 90 percent of Americans love that law. Well, when they couldn’t win in the democratic process of our courts, of our Congress, these interests went to a trade tribunal. Mexico and Canada challenged the law at the WTO in one of the trade tribunals, saying this violates the U.S. obligations at the WTO. And the tribunal, one tribunal after another after an appellate one, they said yes. The U.S. government even changed the law to address the technical errors that the WTO tribunal pointed out. And again, we lost the appeal. So, basically, Canada and Mexico, at the end, were in a position, because this is how it works, to say to the U.S., “Either kill the law or pay $2 billion in trade sanctions every year”—every year—for the right of knowing where our meat comes from. And the Congress said, “Oh, oh, my god, trade war. Let’s avoid the sanctions.” And they gutted the law. So, if you go to the grocery store now, you’re going to notice that’s gone.

Also related: According to the World Health Organization, processed meats pose a severe risk of causing cancer.

Products that have been salted, cured, or otherwise processed to enhance flavor are “carcinogenic to humans,” the Paris-based International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) found in its report, published in the Lancet Oncology. That puts processed meat in the Group 1 carcinogenic category alongside substances like tobacco, alcohol, and plutonium. And non-processed fresh meats like beef, pork, and lamb, among others, are “probably carcinogenic to humans,” the agency said.