The Federal Register today is publishing a new Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) rule written to bring the United States into compliance with World Trade Organization agreements. The new rule from USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service modifies labeling requirements for muscle cuts of meat and amends the definition of what constitutes a “retailer.” “Under this proposed rule, origin designations for muscle cut covered commodities derived from animals slaughtered in the United States would be required to specify the production steps of birth, raising, and slaughter of the animal from which the meat is derived that took place in each country listed on the origin designation,” AMS said. “In addition, this proposed rule would eliminate the allowances for any commingling of muscle cut covered commodities of different origins,” the agency statement continued. AMS began working on the rule change after the U.S. partially lost a WTO appeal in 2012 to rulings in challenges brought by Canada and Mexico. WTO’s appeal board found the U.S. Country of Origin Labeling requirements gave less favorable treatment to foreign cattle and hogs than to domestic livestock. The U.S. was given until May 2013 to bring its County of Origin Labeling rule into compliance with WTO. “There is overwhelming consumer support for country of origin labels and a growing interest by consumers in knowing the source of their food, the Washington D.C.-based consumer group Food & Water Watch said. “The USDA’s proposed rule will help families know where the meat in their supermarket came from,” F&WW added. “The proposed changes eliminate the vague and misleading ‘mixed origin’ country of origin label for meat and ensures that each cut of meat clearly displays each stage of production (where the animal was born, raised and slaughtered) on the label.  This commonsense approach improves the usefulness of the information consumers receive from the label and allows livestock producers to distinguish their products in the marketplace.” But the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association disagreed, saying there is no regulatory fix that can be put in place to bring the current COOL rule into compliance with WTO obligations that will satisfy the U.S.’s top trading partners, Mexico and Canada. “The proposed amendments will only further hinder our trading relationships with our partners, raise the cost of beef for consumers and result in retaliatory tariffs being placed on our export products,” said Scott George, NCBA president. “The requirement that all products sold at retail be labeled with information noting the birth, raising and slaughter will place additional recordkeeping burdens on processors and retailers, contrary to the administration’s assertion. “Moreover,” George added, “this combined with the elimination of the ability to comingle muscle cuts, will only further add to the costs of processing non-US born, raised and slaughtered products.” In publishing the rule, AMS is allowing for a 30 day period for public comments.  

  • farmergirl2

    Contrary to the article’s implications.   This is bad news for consumers and producers, as it will increase prices, either to them or to producers…likely both.    The cost of different labels is irrelevant.  The real cost is for packers/processors/retailers to identify, segregate, and then market several different SKU’s, that are for all practical purposes, the same product.  A pig born in Canada that is raised and slaughtered in the US, produces the same meat as one that is born in the US.  While advocates think this will increase costs for Canadian producers only, that is not true.  ALL producers will suffer the effects of these additional costs.   The current system has been working well, and should be retained (which we can’t do according to the WTO), or we should rescind the COOL legislation completely, at least for pigs.  COOL was not originally pushed by FWW, it was created by a group of cattle producers who did not want to compete with cheaper cattle from Canada, at a time when the US dollar was stronger than the CA dollar, and thus calves could be brought in cheaper due to the exchange rate.   That is now reversed.  The “consumer” issue has arisen way after COOL was implemented.  The WTO rules are also a little whacky, as they require everthing to be labelled equally, meaning you can’t just put labels on US only product, or “foreign raised”, etc.  Everything requires labelling, increasing costs to everyone.

    • farmber

      The old “it’s too expensive  to label” argument rings hollow when food corporations regularly update their packaging with “New!”, “Improved!” etc etc. With today’s technology it’s easy.

      The main question here is whether consumers have a right to truth in labeling — whether it’s country of origin or GMOs…

      • ksubrent61

        @farmber…you are correct, the label itself isn’t expensive. But it those new coolers, pens, and facilitates that have to be bought and built for segregation purposes because of that label change is where the expense comes in. But I guess the concept of passing those costs on to consumers which results in increased price is too much of a concept for some people to figure out.

  • Oginikwe

    Better yet, stop importing meat altogether. 

    We can grow our own food in this country and would be better off for it.

    • ksubrent61

      @Oginikwe, so we cut off all meat imports…how exactly do you expect me to make a living when the price of my cattle t price plummets because countries will now retaliate and not allow any imports or USA beef. The price for a few muscle cuts that American’s eat will not make up for the price of what is exported and the value added to cattle because of it. Folks we operate in a global society and global economy. Globalization is here…deal with it.