DTN Ag Policy Blog

USDA to Survey Consumers About Product of USA Labels on Meat

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service is conducting a survey to examine what consumers understand about the "Product of USA" label, as well as other labels used by USDA for grading or other details. FSIS also opened up public comments for others who would like to voice their opinions on "Product of USA" labels. (DTN file photo)

USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service has posted a notice in the Federal Register that the agency will conduct a survey of about 4,400 U.S. consumers regarding their understanding of the "Product of USA" label on U.S. beef and pork products.

NOTE: An earlier version of the article stated an incorrect figure for the number of people who will be surveyed. USDA will reach out to nearly 10,000 people in hopes of getting about 4,400 surveys.

Currently, policy allows that beef and pork can contain a "Product of USA" label if the product is processed in the U.S. That includes using the label for meat products from animals that have been imported into the U.S. then slaughtered, as well as meat products that have been imported from a foreign country and repackaged or otherwise further processed in the U.S.

USDA noted the department has received three petitions from industry associations over the "Product of USA" label, requesting that the meaning of the label and claim be revised. USDA also added that bills have been introduced in both the House and Senate to require that cattle be born, raised and slaughtered in the U.S. to bear the "Product of USA" label. To deal with these concerns that consumers do not understand the label, FSIS is initiating a rulemaking and web survey.

The web survey will address three primary research questions:

(1) Do consumers notice the "Product of USA" labeling claim?

(2) Do consumers understand the current "Product of USA" definition and other "USDA" labeling (such as "USDA Choice") as it relates to country of origin?

(3) How much are consumers willing to pay for meat products bearing the "Product of USA" labeling claim for the current definition and potential revised definitions (such as if the meat were from an animal that was born, raised, slaughtered, and processed in the United States)?

"Product of USA" is a voluntary label, but the livestock and meatpacking industries have had battles over just exactly how to label meat products, especially after USDA was forced to scrap the mandatory country of origin label (COOL) in 2015.

The web survey will get fairly extensive and could take roughly an hour for consumers to complete. The first part will shoe a series of mock products and ask consumers to list what labeling features they recall on those products. There then will be a second series of questions about whether consumers saw specific images and phrases, including "Product of USA" The second part of the survey will as consumers to address their current understanding of "Product of USA" labels as it relates to the country of origin of a product. Consumers will also be asked if they understand grading labels such as "USDA Choice." The third aspect of the survey will include eight to ten questions about different attributes of products such as price, definition of "Product of USA" and grading claims, as well as other details involving product claims.

Beyond the survey, the FSIS Federal Register notice also kicks off a 60-day comment period for other individuals and organizations to provide their suggestions on how to improve this research effort. The notice calls for comments to be submitted before April 4.

More details about the FSIS survey and how to submit comments can be found at the Regulations.gov website at https://www.regulations.gov/…

Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com

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Chris Clayton