No More Quality Grading of Imported Lamb or Beef
November 18, 2005
November 18, 2005 -- Several senators are proposing that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) no longer provide quality grading of imported lamb or beef carcasses.
On Wednesday, Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) introduced a bill, Truth in Quality Grading Act of 2005, which would prohibit labels such as ?USDA choice? or ?USDA prime? on packages of imported lamb and beef. This move would help consumers differentiate between American product and imported meat, as well as eliminate confusion.
?People sometimes assume that a USDA quality grade for meat products indicates the product is of U.S. origin. This is often not the case,? stated Johnson.
In 1999, the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) petitioned the secretary of agriculture to discontinue the practice of grading imported lamb. ASI supplied comments in 2000 on an Advanced Notice of Rulemaking, again asking the department to not provide USDA grading services on imported carcasses.
At the ASI annual meeting in January 2003, the secretary responded that the department would not initiate this change through rulemaking but rather the effort would require congressional authorization.
?ASI has long standing policy on this issue and we appreciate the Senate action,? stated Peter Orwick, ASI executive director. ?Nearly every American lamb carcass is quality graded, even though plants participate voluntarily, indicating how important this is to U.S lamb marketers. U.S. producers, feeders and companies have spent a large amount of time and energy over the years on the grade standards, while importers obviously have not.?
The bill comes in response to several delays for a country-of-origin labeling law that was authorized in the 2002 Farm Bill. It was originally scheduled to begin in 2004, but was then delayed until 2006 and has now been pushed back to 2008
Staff contact: Peter Orwick, ext. 33