Call it Anything You Want . . . Just Not Meat
HURON, S.D. – COOL is the reason Gregory cattleman Brett Kenzy joined S.D. Farmers Union (SDFU).
“SDFU is a strong supporter of COOL (Coutry of Origin Labeling). They traveled to D.C. twice in one year to lobby on behalf of COOL. This says a lot about their strong efforts,” explains Kenzy, who serves as Region 3 Director for R-CALF USA and runs a cow/calf herd and feedlot operation with his brother, George. “We live in a global economy. We produce finished beef under the finest conditions and safest manner. To think we can compete in a global economy without country-of-origin labeling is naive.”
During the 2019 SDFU State Convention, Kenzy shared his thoughts on truth in labeling as part of a panel discussion along with other South Dakota cattle producers: Jeff Kippley, Aberdeen; Danni Beer, Keldron; and Rodney Yost, Gann Valley.
“Labeling is our No. 1 thing we need to do as an organization,” explains Kippley, who also serves as the SDFU representative on the Beef Industry Council. “We raise the best beef in the world. We have the cattle everyone wants, but yet when you go to the grocery store, you don’t know what you’re buying.”
Since the 2015 repeal of COOL, Farmers Union has advocated for its reintroduction. When lobbyists began pushing for petri-dish proteins to be labeled as meat, another motivation for truth in labeling became evident.
In 2018, SDFU sponsored a group of cattle producers to testify for truth in labeling during USDA Food Safety Inspection Service hearings. Kenzy and Beer were among those who testified. “To keep things in perspective, 98 percent of consumers want to eat real meat.
They don’t want the fake stuff. Throughout the whole process, the only individuals I have talked with who are excited about petri-dish protein are those we heard testify for it. Even vegans are not comfortable with the process,” shares Beer, who got involved in advocating for truth in labeling as President of the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association. “We figured the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association hands would be tied because they have packers on their board of directors who started investing in alternative proteins.”
Yost adds. “We as producers are battling a competitor with unlimited funding. Whoever has the money, has the means to put out the message and get the most eyeballs on the message.”
Yost’s comments were followed by a question from Kenzy, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was a checkoff who served the people who paid the checkoff?” Convention-goers applauded. Kenzy went on to encourage SDFU members to gain a better understanding of the movement behind petri-dish proteins by watching the Jason Clay Ted Talk. “If you think fake meat is a threat, the push behind it is a threat.”
Although COOL advocates received another disappointment when it was not made a part of the recent U.S. Mexico-Canada Agreement, there may be some policy momentum moving in the right direction with two newly introduced bills: U.S. Beef Integrity Act and Marketing Edible Artificials Truthfully (MEAT) Act.
SDFU member Tammy Basel asked how these bills dealt with blended products. “USCA asked for that to be addressed through the petition process, but have heard nothing but crickets…I’d better be careful using that term because it could be an ingredient in blended products,” Beer answers.
To learn more about how SDFU advocates for truth in labeling, visit http://www.sdfu.org.