USDA Issues Meat Labeling Final Rule

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the finalization of a rule mandating that all meat products sold with the “Product of U.S.A.” label must be derived from animals born, raised, slaughtered and processed in the U.S.

Speaking at the National Farmers Union Annual Convention in Scottsdale, AZ, on Monday, Vilsack also announced USDA is awarding $9.5 million to 42 projects through the Local Meat Capacity grant program to expand processing options for the meat and poultry industry and new actions to ensure transparency and a fair and competitive market in the U.S seed industry.

“Today’s announcement is a vital step toward consumer protection and builds on the Biden-Harris Administration’s work to bolster trust and fairness in the marketplace where smaller processors can compete,” said Vilsack. “This final rule will ensure that when consumers see ‘Product of USA’ they can trust the authenticity of that label and know that every step involved, from birth to processing, was done here in America.”

“In addition, the Local Meat Capacity grants are addressing critical processing infrastructure needs for local and regional livestock and poultry producers, ensuring their products get to market efficiently and cost effectively, which supports local economies, new jobs, and more choices for consumers,” the Secretary said. “USDA is also committed to boosting the farmer’s voice in our seed patent system and enforcing the disclosure laws on the books as we deliver more and better choices for farmers.”

USDA’s actions build on President Biden’s Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy and the administration’s action plan for a Fairer, More Competitive, and More Resilient Meat and Poultry Supply Chain. They complement a series of other all-encompassing actions by USDA to increase competition in agricultural markets, create a fairer playing field for small- and mid-size farmers, lower grocery costs for consumers, and strengthen local and regional food systems.

“Product of USA” Final Rule

USDA’s final “Product of USA” rule allows the voluntary “Product of USA” or “Made in the USA” label claim to be used on meat, poultry and egg products only when they are derived from animals born, raised, slaughtered and processed in the United States. The rule will prohibit misleading U.S. origin labeling in the market and help ensure that the information that consumers receive about where their food comes from is truthful.

USDA’s final “Product of USA” rule is supported by petitions, thousands of comments from stakeholders, and data from a nationwide consumer survey.

Under the final rule, the “Product of USA” or “Made in the USA” label claim will continue to be voluntary. It will also remain eligible for generic label approval, meaning it would not need to be pre-approved by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) before it can be used on regulated product, but would require the establishment to maintain documentation on file to support the claim. The final rule also allows the use of other voluntary U.S. origin claims on meat, poultry and egg products sold in the marketplace. These claims will need to include a description on the package of the preparation and processing steps that occurred in the United States upon which the claim is made.

USDA has also published an updated labeling guidance on the use of voluntary U.S.-origin label claims to provide examples of claims and the types of documentation that establishments may maintain to support use of the claims. The guidance will be open for public comment for 60 days after publishing in the Federal Register. Public comments can be submitted at www.regulations.gov.

Establishments voluntarily using a claim subject to the final rule will need to comply with the new regulatory requirements by January 1, 2026, and are encouraged to do so as soon as practicable after the publication of this final rule.

Local Meat Capacity Grant Program

USDA is also awarding $9.5 million to 42 projects through the Local Meat Capacity (Local MCap) grant program. This initial set of awards through Local MCap is for Simplified Equipment Only projects.

In April 2023, USDA announced up to $75 million available for Local MCap to fund innovative projects designed to build resilience in the meat and poultry supply chain by providing producers with more local processing options and strengthening their market potential. This is part of a larger, $1 billion commitment to expand independent meat and poultry processing capacity and give farmers additional, local options to obtain fairer prices for the animals they raise and give consumers more options in the marketplace. The Local MCap grant program is targeted to support meat and poultry processors with smaller-scale projects, with a goal to increase processing availability and variety for local and regional livestock producers. The program is administered by the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) with funding from President Biden’s American Rescue Plan.