Looking for another reason to stop eating meat? Labels that mislead consumers tell us that meat was "made in America" but could actually have come from somewhere else. US meat producers have been using a loophole in the law since 2015 to fudge the true origins of that hamburger meat or steak you see in the store. The beef with a “Made in America” or “Product of the USA” label could have been brought in from South America and repackaged here.

That is the warning message from Farm Aid, a nonprofit organization that supports family farmers across the United States. The organization is working to make the farming industry more transparent to consumers.

Farm Aid claims that meat industry giants have been mischaracterizing the origins of beef sold in stores for nearly a decade – ever since 2015 when congress partially repealed the Country of Origin Labelling (COOL) law, allowing major meat manufacturers to remove the true source of the beef from the packaging. When beef is marketed with those labels, it may not be the whole story.

Farm Aid is promoting The American Beef Labelling Act in order to prevent meat products from being labeled “Product of the USA”  unless the cattle or animal was raised and processed within the United States.

“Have you ever noticed 'Product of the USA' on the label of beef in the grocery store?" a post on the Farm Aid website reads. "Would it surprise you to learn that the animal it came from may have been raised and processed in Brazil or New Zealand?"

America Beef
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Made in America Labels are misleading

Current standards for “Made in America” or “Product of the USA” labels only require companies to have processed the meat within the United States. That means the actual meat itself could have been imported from South America or other origins, and been repackaged to stateside, to earn the label. Following the repeal of the part of the law that allowed this, back in 2015, major beef companies have taken full advantage of this loophole. Alongside beef products, the changed bill also allowed the pork industry to adopt misleading standards.

The American Beef Labelling Act, proposed last September, prioritizes transparency within the beef industry that is often shielded from the public eye. By learning that the “Product of the USA” beef is an import, Americans are likely to feel deceived by the meat industry. Representatives within the US Congress are working to reinstate a Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling for beef products.

"Transparency in labeling benefits both producers and consumers," the bill's co-sponsor Sen. John Thune (R-SD) said. "Unfortunately, the current beef labeling system in this country allows imported beef that is neither born nor raised in the United States but simply finished here, to be labeled as a product of the USA. This process is unfair to cattle producers and misleading for consumers. When you see a 'product of the USA' label on the grocery store shelf, it should mean just that."

Can’t Trust the Beef Industry? Here’s Why to Avoid Beef

Meat production – particularly beef production – is responsible for nearly 60 percent of global food-related greenhouse gas emissions. Between methane and carbon emissions, the beef industry is causing unimaginable damage to the environment. But beyond the environment, experts continue to find that beef is more dangerous to health than previously understood.

Is red meat all that bad for you? A recent study found that regularly eating beef could increase your risk of heart disease by 18 percent. The study surveys 1.4 million meat-eaters and found a conclusive spike when looking at heart and cardiovascular diseases. But when faced with losing beef, people often worry about adapting their diets to properly meet nutritional marks.

Without beef, people can reduce their risk of disease and simultaneously increase their current health. Another recent study concluded that eating a plant-centric diet during young adulthood (aged 18 to 30) can serve to reduce your risk of heart disease 30 years later. The study followed 5,000 people over 30 years to properly assess the differences in diet-related illness and found that plant-centric and plant-based diets helped boost people’s health throughout their life and led to fewer heart-related illnesses later in life.

Plant-Based Protein Alternatives

When it comes to healthy eating, there's no time like the present to drop meat and dairy from your diet. A recent study just found that picking up a mostly plant-based diet could prolong your life expectancy by over 10 years. However, while many people feel intimidated by a full-scale dietary change, there are plenty of ways to ease yourself into a plant-based diet. From flexitarian approaches to everyday substitution, plant-based eating can remove any worries about the unhealthy side effects of red meat or the recent concerns about point of origin.

The Beet offers several starting points for avoiding meat and going more plant-based,  including The Beginner's Guide to a Plant-Based Diet.

Read More: First read an ultimate introductory guide to a plant-based diet that explains the difference between following a vegetarian, flexitarian, and plant-based diet.

If you're trying to start small, try one of these eight heart-healthy recipes that make sure to give you protein without risking food-related illnesses.

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