March 7 (Reuters) - Meat, poultry, or eggs labelled as a U.S. product must come from animals raised and slaughtered within the country under a rule proposed by the Biden administration on Monday, in a victory for U.S. ranchers who had lobbied for the change.
Existing rules for the label permit its use for meat derived from animals that were born and raised abroad and only processed in the United States, which the nation's farmers and ranchers had argued disadvantaged domestic producers.
The administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) pledged to review the "Product of USA" and "Made in the USA" label standards for meat early last year as part of a broader strategy to encourage competition in the economy as a whole and in the highly consolidated meat sector.
"American consumers expect that when they buy a meat product at the grocery store, the claims they see on the label mean what they say," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement.
The USDA conducted a consumer survey last year that found the majority of consumers believed the "Product of USA" label means the product came from animals born and raised in the country, the agency said.
Groups representing farmers and ranchers cheered the announcement.
"If it says ‘Made in the USA,’ then it should be from cattle that have only known USA soil. Consumers have the right to know where their food comes from, full stop," U.S. Cattlemen's Association president Justin Tupper said in a statement. The group had petitioned the USDA to update its meat origin labeling.
U.S. meat labeling has been contentious for years. In 2009, USDA finalized labeling standards for meat that required country of origin labeling, but the World Trade Organization blocked implementation of the standard in 2015 after Canada and Mexico brought legal challenges, arguing damage to trade.
The "Product of the USA" label will remain voluntary under USDA's proposed rule.