If You See a Product of USA Label, This Is What It Means

Updated: Mar. 13, 2023

A proposed change from the Biden administration will finally clear up any confusion.

Food labels sure can get confusing. What’s the difference between low-fat and reduced-fat? What does it mean if a cut of meat is USDA Choice or Select? And what exactly does it mean if my potato chips are organic? People in the food industry are smart; they know exactly how to market a product with all of their clever label tricks.

Yet thankfully, the Biden administration proposed a change to a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulation surrounding meat products, making it easier to understand if a meat product is or isn’t coming from the United States. The recent proposal will finally make it clear what the label “Products of USA” actually means on your animal-based proteins, clearing up at least one of the food labels we’re reading wrong at the grocery store.

What does “Product of USA” on meat really mean?

As of right now, there are no regulations that require companies to label their animal-based food products based on where they came from, which can cause some confusion among shoppers. Currently, products including meat, poultry and eggs can be born and raised in another country before being imported and processed in the United States to give them that “Product of USA” label, or even a “Made in the USA” label.

Products with “Made in the USA” labels are slightly different, where that product’s materials, processing and labor must “all or virtually all” come from the United States. However, there is still some room for the use of these products to still include foreign items.

“Product of USA” labeling simply means that the meat—or another animal product—was at least processed in the United States, without other requirements on where that product originates.

The confusing nature of these labels can get even more baffling for consumers when paired next to a USDA label. Meat products are typically graded by the USDA to ensure safe consumption for the consumer, yet where that particular meat is coming from can still be unknown.

What changes are being proposed for the label?

Buying meat at a supermarketgilaxia/Getty Images

The new proposed rule from the Biden administration would change this particular loophole. With the new label, the USDA proposes that this label will be applied to animal proteins “only when they are derived from animals born, raised, slaughtered and processed in the United States.” This means that the animals must be born and raised within the United States, as well as butchered and processed within the country.

“These proposed changes are intended to provide consumers with accurate information to make informed purchasing decisions,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a statement. “Our action today affirms USDA’s commitment to ensuring accurate and truthful product labeling.”

According to Fox News, American ranchers, farmers and consumer groups have been pushing for changes to this misleading label for years, arguing that the current rules are hurting the U.S. producers of these products. With the recently proposed changes to these labels, shoppers can purchase meat confidently, supporting American ranchers and producers at their local grocery stores.