U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, the presidential candidate as well, doesn't want Americans to be buffaloed. He and Sen. John Hoeven want to pass a labeling law to make sure importers aren't passing off meat from water buffalo as good old American bison, the kind that's a budding industry in Western states such as Colorado.
“Misleading labeling does a disservice to bison ranchers who have worked hard to create a growing market for bison,” Bennet said in a statement about his buffalo bill.
The law says products made with water buffalo, more common to Asia, can't simply be told as "buffalo" to U.S. consumers — technically accurate with a marketing sleight of hand, contend American livestock producers who have been lobbying for the law.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn't have a rule that makes a clear difference.
The Colorado Farm Bureau, Colorado Cattlemen’s Association and the Denver-based Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, along with the National Bison Association, are among those asking for the Truth in Buffalo Labeling Act.
Chad Vorthmann, executive vice president of Colorado Farm Bureau, said it's a matter of being transparent with the consumer and fair to U.S. bison producers.
“It is important that food items are distinguishable for what they are," he said. "Fair and honest labels make things clear and concise and do not create winners and losers or vilify any product."
Dr. Dale McCall, president of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, said it's about stamping out "misleading, inaccurate and vague label language."
"Labeling water buffalo as 'buffalo' is inaccurate and intentionally misleads consumers," he said in a statement released by Bennets office.
The bill would apparently have no effect on the University of Colorado Buffaloes whose mascot, Ralphie, is a bison, and a female, as college sports are not regulated by the FDA.
(In Hoeven's home state, the mascot of for North Dakota State is accurately labeled as the bison, but it's spelled Thundar, to lead the thundering herd.)