Criteria for U.S. meat? Not for South Dakota to decide, legislators say

Rebekah Tuchscherer

Legislation to establish criteria for U.S.-labeled meat was shot down in committee after tracing and implementation concerns surfaced during opponent testimony Tuesday morning.

House Bill 1215 sought to make it so that meat products could only be branded as a product of the United States if derived entirely from animals that are born, raised and slaughtered in the U.S.

Deferred to the 41st legislative day with 11 in favor, one opposed and one excused, the bill will not move forward.

While similar to Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) at the federal level, this piece of state legislation differed as it only created standards for meat labeled as a product of the U.S., rather than standards for meat products imported from other countries, according to the bill’s prime sponsor, Rep. Sam Marty, R-Prairie City.

However, as South Dakota grocery stores only know what the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) tells them — which does not include country of origin — implementing such legislation on a state level would be difficult, according to Nathan Sanderson Executive Director of the South Dakota Retailers Association.

“You’re going to make criminals out of mom and pop store owners,” Sanderson said at Tuesday’s House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee hearing. “They have no way of knowing where some of these animals originated.”

Representatives from the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association and South Dakota Farm Bureau also opposed the legislation, citing lack of traceability in the U.S.

“The labeling issue rightfully needs to be addressed and enforced by federal authorities — not the state,” Eric Jennings, president for the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association said.”[This] may cause South Dakota to become an unattractive island for beef sellers.”

Organizations in favor of the bill included the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, South Dakota Livestock Auction Market Association, Dakota Rural Action, South Dakota Farmers Union and South Dakota R-CALF USA.

Anthony Roark seasons a slab of meat on Friday, November 20, at Look’s Marketplace in Sioux Falls.