Product of USA Labeling In The News…Again

As we’ve written in the past (here and here), the “Product of USA” claim on beef labels is misleading to most shoppers. You would think when you see those words on a package of beef it would mean that what’s inside came from animals born, raised, and processed in the U.S. But that’s not the case. Imported beef can be cut, ground, and wrapped in this country and carry the claim, despite the fact that the actual product—the steak, roast, or ground beef—came from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, or other places. It’s downright deceitful.

But now, after lobbying from small farm and ranch groups, the USDA has presented a proposed rule to lessen the confusion and is currently seeking comments. The new rule—voluntary, just like the old rule—states that animals must be born, raised, slaughtered, and processed in the U.S. in order to carry the “Product of USA” or “Made in the USA”  labels. You can read more about the proposed rule and make comments here. (Be patient–it might take a few seconds to load.)

Beef born and raised in the USA sticker

The confusion around this wording is why you’ll see the “Born and Raised in the USA” certification label on every Panorama Organic product. Unlike the more common “Product of USA” label claim, this is a certified program recognizing products that come from animals truly born and raised on American family ranches. We have never imported our beef, and we never will, and all of our animals are processed here in the U.S. This keeps small businesses—the ranches, packing plants, cold storage companies, truckers, and other allied suppliers—surviving and thriving. 

Why is that important to you as a beef buyer and eater? Most of our customers are values shoppers. They believe in animal welfare, environmental protections, and serving healthy products to their families. All of our beef comes from animals raised on pasture where they’re able to express their natural herd instincts and fed nothing but grass and forage—no hormones, no antibiotics. All of those pastures are certified organic and non-GMO, and every one of our ranchers adheres to a management plan designed to build and restore habitat for the birds, bees, and wildlife that depend on our ever-shrinking US grasslands. When you buy and serve Panorama Organic beef, you’re voting with your fork for a more compassionate, equitable, healthy, and earth-friendly food system.

Not only does our beef exceed most people’s expectations for organic and grass-fed beef, it’s also delicious. (Read more about that here.) With exceptional tenderness and flavor, it’s a product we’re proud to deliver to your family’s dinner table.

We urge you to learn more about the issues surrounding Product of USA labeling and to weigh in with your feedback. The comment period is open until May 12. 

Beef born and raised in the USA sticker

Why Is “Born & Raised in the USA” Important?

As we approach the July 4 holiday to celebrate our country’s birth, we want to acknowledge the ranchers who raise the cattle that become our beef. You might wonder why we place such an emphasis on buying from American ranchers. Vitalizing rural communities is one of the four pillars in the Panorama Organic 360-Degree Promise for several reasons, and it’s why Panorama Organic never has and never will use imported beef in our program.

The company was founded by a group of California ranchers more than twenty years ago, ranchers who realized that consumers were demanding better beef than what they were finding in the grocery store. That group of ranchers made the decision to develop relationships with their customers. They wanted to know who was buying their beef and to tell their stories to those consumers.

Eventually, doing so allowed them to make a better return on their investment, and that financial stability, along with the judicious use of conservation easements, allowed them to preserve their grazing lands, wildlife habitat, and open space, rather than having to carve off pieces of their ranches and sell to developers to pay the bills. When that happens, the land is gone forever. As founding rancher Darrell Wood has said, “I’ve never seen a strip mall or a housing development torn down and the land go back into ranching.”

As our products became more popular, the network of ranchers began to grow. Today, every one of the families who raise cattle for Panorama Organic in eight states across the West and Midwest is also demonstrating a commitment to preserving America’s grasslands, one of the most endangered ecosystems on the planet. They demonstrate that commitment by working with Audubon Conservation Ranching, a program that helps them maintain and restore bird habitat, sequester carbon, and keep waterways and riparian areas clean and flowing, especially important in these times of drought.

When ranchers are able to keep their operations sustainable, that has a ripple effect in small communities in rural America. The businesses that support the ranchers and farmers—the local feed store, the grocery store, the coffee shop—survive and thrive. The local schools stay open, as do the local churches and other organizations that support community life. Kids have opportunities to play soccer and baseball or take gymnastics lessons and take part in activities like Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. This isn’t the case in places where industrial agriculture has eradicated small family farms in favor of huge monocrop or concentrated animal feeding operations run by multinational corporations that foul the water and air, destroy the soil, and leave formerly thriving communities as shells of their former selves. 

Transparency is also important to Panorama Organic, and that’s why we carry certifications on our labels. Each of our ranches is visited annually by auditors who verify the claims. Not only that, but members of our team visit our ranches regularly to see how things are going with their own eyes. We don’t just rely on a piece of paper that says a side of beef is grass-fed and organic, which is the case with imported beef. We also track each animal through the plant, so there’s no doubt that what ends up in our packages is exactly what we claim.

And one more thing about imported beef—last year we explained that Product of USA on a label doesn’t necessarily mean the beef came from the US. It just means that the meat was cut and processed in a US plant. Much of the grass-fed beef in grocery stores comes from Australia, New Zealand, Uruguay, and Argentina. And much of that is treated like commodity beef—in fact, the major beef packers are the biggest importers of grass-fed beef. That may make it less expensive than American grass-fed and organic beef, but it’s not what people think they’re getting when they see “grass-fed”—and Product of the USA—on the label.

When you buy Panorama Organic beef, you’re making a difference with your dollars. Not everyone can donate large sums to causes they support or buy a Tesla to save the environment, but by spending an extra dollar or two on a package of ground beef, you’re not only getting a delicious and nutritious source of protein, you’re also saving birds and keeping land in open space. And you’re helping your rural neighbors keep their businesses going for the next generation. We thank you, and so do our family ranchers.

What's on the label sticker with guidelines on different seals to look for on labels with descriptions

What’s On the Label?

Sometimes a trip to the grocery store is a mind-boggling adventure when it comes to deciphering the information on product labels. Especially for shoppers who want to purchase according to their values, the sheer number of claims, certifications, and vague terms can be overwhelming. This is especially true in the meat case, where terms like all-natural, no antibiotics or hormones, grass-fed, and organic can create confusion.

At Panorama Organic, we’re committed to transparency. We want you to know exactly what you’re getting when you buy our meat to serve your family, and that’s why we created our labels to give you as much information as we can squeeze into a small space. 

But what do those symbols really mean?

100% Grass-fed and finished

Our grass-fed protocol says Panorama Organic cattle spend 100 percent of their lives living on pasture eating only grass and forage from weaning to harvest. They’re able to express their natural herd animal instincts because they’re never confined to feedlots or given grain to fatten them up. It takes a little longer to do it this way, but the results are meat that’s healthier for you and the planet, a content life for the animals, and a delicious eating experience.

USDA Organic

Each of the ranches in our network must pass a rigorous annual audit to insure they’re meeting the standards of the USDA Organic program. That means the grazing pastures and any supplemental feed, like hay, are never treated with chemical herbicides, fungicides, or pesticides and are completely non-GMO. The animals are never given antibiotics or hormones and are handled according to standards that keep them healthy and stress-free. The organic program is about building a farm system created on the foundation of healthy soil and that maximizes animal health and welfare.

Audubon Certified

In 2021, we announced our partnership with Audubon’s Conservation Ranching Initiative, a program designed to help consumers support efforts to preserve grassland songbird habitat by purchasing beef products that come from ranches who employ bird-friendly practices. This year, we’re proud to announce that all the ranches in our network have been approved by Audubon Conservation Ranching, and now our packages carry the certification logo on our labels.

Each of our ranches meets the strict standards established by Audubon in four areas:

  • Habitat Management—Every ranch operates under a habitat management plan developed with the help of an Audubon range scientist to preserve and restore bird and wildlife habitat and preserve biodiversity.
  • Forage and Feeding—As with our own protocol and similar to those of the USDA Organic program, animals graze open pasture their entire lives and are never given antibiotics, hormones, or animal by-products, nor are they ever confined to feedlots.
  • Animal Health and Welfare—All of our ranches must adhere to best practices when it comes to caring for their animals. This means allowing animals to express their natural instinctive behaviors and providing a low-stress environment in every aspect of their lives. Processing plants must adhere to Dr. Temple Grandin’s principles of humane handling.
  • Environmental Sustainability—Land must be managed in a way that protects the soil, grassland habitats, and waterways. The goal is to provide a healthy ecosystem for birds, wildlife, and pollinators and to sequester carbon.

Whole30 Approved

All of our beef is 100% compliant with the principles of the Whole30 eating plan, a program designed to help people change their health habits and relationship with food. By eliminating potentially problematic foods from the diet for 30 days and then following a science-based reintroduction regimen, eaters following Whole30 decide for themselves which foods make them feel the best and support their lifestyle goals. 

Born & Raised in the USA

Every one of our animals is bred, born, and raised on American family ranches. Panorama Organic never imports beef from other countries. We’re proud to support rural communities—the small businesses that support our ranchers; the schools, churches, and other social organizations that serve as the glue holding those communities together; and the service businesses that keep our ranch families healthy and happy. When you purchase Panorama Organic, you’re helping to keep a little girl in gymnastics classes, a local coffee shop open, or the local Boy Scout troop camping.

The QR Code 

To make it easy for shoppers to learn more about us even while they’re still in the grocery store, we’ve added a QR code to our labels. By scanning it with the camera in your phone, you can learn more about what we do, including the importance of our partnership with Audubon Conservation Ranching. 

If you ever have questions about any of our practices, ranches, or products, we’re happy to answer them. Just send an email or give us a call.

The Label Says Product of USA. But Is It?

U.S.D.A Choice Produced in the USA sticker

A little-known loophole in meat labeling laws has been misleading consumers for years. If you pick up a grocery store package of beef labeled “Product of USA,” you might not be getting what you think you are. It’s perfectly legal for meatpackers to import the meat from other countries like Australia, Argentina, or Mexico, and as long as it’s cut and packaged in a domestic plant, they can slap the Product of USA label on it and no one is the wiser. 

This is especially egregious when it comes to grass-fed beef. Most of the commercial grass-fed beef in this country is imported, and consumers have no way of knowing how those cattle were raised, whether the producers adhered to any kind of standards or not, or even whether the beef is truly grass-fed—or not.

President Biden recently signed an executive order that instructs the USDA to begin the rulemaking process to change the law so that beef labeled “Product of USA” is from animals born and raised in the US. But as with most things in the government, it could be a long time coming.

You might be wondering why this really matters. Under the current law, it means consumers aren’t getting the products they’re paying for, and US ranchers and farmers find themselves at a competitive disadvantage because imported beef can be less expensive for packers, although the price at retail generally isn’t. So basically, the big packing houses make money by deceiving consumers. 

Beef born and raised in the USA sticker

What can you do about it? Get to know your rancher and look for a label that says “born and raised in the USA.” That’s what you’ll find on Panorama Organic. Every package of our grass-fed and organic beef comes from family farms and ranches right here in the US—farms and ranches that have to meet our strict standards for animal husbandry and welfare as well as environmental standards to keep the soil, water, and wildlife healthy. 

We’ve never cut corners by buying cheap imported beef and we never will. Sometimes that’s challenging. When we’re in the middle of a severe drought, as we are now, it can be hard for our supply to keep up with the demand. But one of Panorama Organic’s four pillars is vitalizing rural communities, and we do that by working with our network of ranchers and their families and paying them a premium for their cattle so they make a decent living.  

Does our beef cost a little more? Yes, it does. But when you buy Panorama Organic, you’re supporting a little girl’s dream of one day being an Olympic athlete or a son who wants to finish college and come back to the ranch to be the next generation on the land. You’re also helping to sequester carbon, keep the water clean, and preserve habitat for the other species who inhabit our planet.

You can read about the people who raise our cattle in this newsletter and on our website. We know you may not get the opportunity to visit them in person, but we hope you’ll get to know them virtually. They appreciate your interest and your support as they bring healthy, delicious meat to your table.