Bison Ranchers Welcome Move to Enforce Truthful Labeling

Washington, D.C. -- U.S. Reps. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) and Billy Long (R-MO) today introduced the Truth in Buffalo Labeling Act, which would stop water buffalo meat and food products from being marketed in a manner leading consumers to believe they are purchasing North American bison.

“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 Rep. Perlmutter. “The Truth in Buffalo Labeling Act will halt that deceptive practice and protect consumers and ranchers alike.”

“The American public has the right to know exactly what is in the products that they’re purchasing. Many Americans associate the term ‘buffalo’ with American bison, and for far too long companies have exploited this misconception,” said Rep. Long. “The Truth in Buffalo Labeling Act will protect consumers and ranchers by prevent companies from using generic terms that are intended to mislead consumers.”

Bison and water buffalo are two different species. The Asian water buffalo originates in southern Asia, is adapted to hot and humid climates, and has been domesticated for nearly 5,000 years. Conversely, the bison is indigenous to North America, well adapted for colder, drier climates, and are still considered undomesticated.

Specifically, the bill amends Section 403 of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act to require any products from the genus Bubalus be labeled as “water buffalo” in the U.S. marketplace and products from the genus Bison to be labeled as “bison” or “buffalo”. By providing clarification to consumers, the legislation will reduce the number of mislabeled products on the market, meeting consumer expectations and ensuring food safety.

Dave Carter, Executive Director of the Colorado-based National Bison Association, thanked Reps. Perlmutter and Long for introducing the legislation, saying, “American bison ranchers established a relationship with our customers that is based upon the quality of our meat, and the manner in which we raise our bison. Mislabeled water buffalo products in the marketplace threaten to undermine that relationship.”

This is the companion bill to S.2479 introduced in the Senate in September 2019 by U.S. Sens. John Hoeven (R-ND) and Michael Bennet (D-CO), which is currently under review in the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

The legislation has been endorsed by the National Bison Association, the InterTribal Buffalo Council, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Farmers Union, R-CALF USA, and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.