Legislation protects U.S. bison industry, prevents deceptive labeling of water buffalo

Senator Bennet

Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet and U.S. Senator John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and U.S. Representatives Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.) and Billy Long (R-Mo.) introduced the Truth in Buffalo Labeling Act, legislation to prevent water buffalo products from being deceptively labeled as buffalo, which misleads consumers and negatively affects U.S. bison producers.  

The bipartisan bill provides the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with the authority to ensure that products with water buffalo are marketed as “water buffalo” so consumers aren’t misled to believe the product contains bison, which is commonly referred to as buffalo in the United States. Bison products would continue to be labeled as “bison” or “buffalo”.  

“Americans have long associated the term ‘buffalo’ with American bison. Some companies are now importing water buffalo meat and ingredients and labeling it only as ‘buffalo’ which can mislead consumers,” said Perlmutter. “The Truth in Buffalo Labeling Act will halt that deceptive practice and protect consumers and ranchers alike.” 

“Bison producers have worked hard to connect with consumers around the high quality of the meat, and the role that these magnificent animals are playing in restoring healthy grasslands,” said Dave Carter, Executive Director of the National Bison Association. “Those efforts are being undermined by deceptively-labeled water buffalo. The Truth in Buffalo Labeling Act will protect both the hard-working ranchers and their customers.” 

In addition to Bennet and Hoeven, the legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), and John Thune (R-S.D.).  

Bennet and Hoeven first introduced this legislation in 2019. In 2018, the senators led a letter to the FDA highlighting concerns with the growing number of imported water buffalo meat and pet food ingredients on the market being deceptively labeled as “buffalo.” In response, FDA indicated that it does not currently have a specific regulation regarding the marketing of either water buffalo or bison, but the agency agreed that water buffalo should be labeled as “water buffalo” and bison should be labeled as “bison” or “buffalo.” 

“Colorado’s bison producers work hard to grow their markets and deliver high quality meat. Misleading labeling undermines their efforts and makes it difficult for consumers to know what they’re buying,” said Bennet. “By requiring water buffalo products to have accurate labels, our bill helps support American bison producers and delivers transparency for consumers.” 

The legislation is supported by the American Farm Bureau Federation, Colorado Farm Bureau, Intertribal Buffalo Council, National Bison Association, National Farmers Union, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, North Dakota Farmers Union and Rocky Mountain Farmers Union. 

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