By Don Nelson | Keene, N.D.
North Dakota doesn’t have many famous landmarks but there is one animal that we are known for, American Bison, often called buffalo. All across North Dakota, you’ll see pictures, murals and statues of the iconic animal. It’s on our license plate, our state quarter design, it’s the mascot of our state university, and Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) uses the animal on his logo.
Clearly, bison are extremely popular here. It makes sense that Hoeven championed legislation that made the buffalo our national mammal, and that he recently resubmitted legislation to protect our consumers with The Truth in Buffalo Labeling Act.
Hoeven is right. When buying meat, consumers should see labels on every product that name the specific type of animal, ingredients and country of origin of product. A fact sheet from the National Bison Association claims that companies are mislabeling meat from water buffalo as buffalo meat, conning consumers into thinking that they are buying the meat from American Bison.
There are approximately 12,000 bison in North Dakota, according to the North Dakota Department of Agriculture. Though there are 1.8 million beef cattle produced in North Dakota, our beef doesn’t have the same labeling protection as our bison products. Neither does pork. Often consumers don’t know where the beef and pork products they buy come from. Meatpackers lower prices by mixing domestic hamburger with cheaper foreign hamburger which is legally labeled “Product of the USA.” Foreign beef undercuts the price of cattle in the U.S. and often is processed in conditions lower than the USDA’s.
With so much more beef than bison sold, Hoeven should realize that ranchers and consumers would support him if he stood for stronger requirements to use “Product of the USA” labels and for Country of Origin labeling, once again.