Labeling meat with its country of origin has been a goal that the Cattle Producers of Washington have advocated for since the organization’s inception in 2004. It is hoped that informed consumers will pick a U.S. beef product over a foreign one, boosting the profitability of the American cow-calf producer.
Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) was included in the 2002 Farm Bill but has faced challenges from both meatpacking companies in the courts and by foreign countries via the World Trade Organization. Meatpackers who kill and process cattle claim COOL is too expensive to implement. Countries like Canada have argued that the labeling creates an unfair advantage for U.S. products on the open marketplace.
However, a version of COOL was implemented in 2008 that allowed meat to be listed from the various countries it was born, raised and slaughtered in, labels often reading “product of U.S., Canada, and Mexico.”
But combined labels don’t allow consumers to clearly identify beef from the safest herds in the world. CPoW still wants to see a “born, raised and slaughtered in the U.S.” label that clearly gives consumers the information they need to choose a superior product.
If upheld in the court and supported by Congress, COOL will join other provisions like the Textile Fiber Products Identification Act, the Wool Labeling Act, the Fur Products Labeling Act and the American Automobile Labeling Act that requires a “Made in USA” label or country of origin label on the product.
“We have the best beef in the world and we know that consumers not only want a high quality product, but they want the safety and assurances that come from an animal born, raised and slaughtered in the U.S.,” said CPoW President Dave Dashiell. “There is just something wrong when you know where your shirt is from, but not your steak.”
The U.S. Cattlemen’s Association is battling challenges to the law in court, with another round of briefs scheduled for federal court in January 2014.