Origin Labels: Legislation introduced to identify nation of origin for beef
for The Fence Post
Labels are all the rage these days.
U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) introduced a resolution Oct. 30, 2019, supporting the reestablishment of a country-of-origin labeling (COOL) program which was repealed in 2015. According to a press release from the USCA, the introduction follows months of coordination and collaboration by the Senator, pulling together consumer and producer stakeholders to push forth this labeling solution.
United States Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) Director Emeritus issued the following statement:
“Consumers are increasingly seeking out more information on the products they choose to feed their families. The U.S. produces the highest quality, safest, and most eco-conscious beef in the world. U.S. cattle producers deserve the opportunity to showcase their product in the retail marketplace.
“We’re incredibly grateful for Senator Jon Tester continuing to champion Truth in Labeling efforts through the introduction of this resolution. We ask other Senators to follow his lead and choose to stand with American consumers and ranching families.”
The resolution recognizes that U.S. farmers and ranchers raise the best meat in the world, consumers should have the right to knowingly buy American products, and all stakeholders benefit from transparency. The resolution goes on to say that Congress supported COOL in the 2008 Farm Bill because 87 percent of consumers want to know the country of origin of the meat they purchase and its repeal reduced the competitive advantage of products born, raised, and slaughtered in the U.S. The resolution reads that American food safety standards are higher than in other countries and foreign commodities, including beef and pork, are misleadingly labeled “Product of USA” if they are packed or processed in the US. Technological advancements, the resolution said, are in place to accurately and efficiently identify the origin of beef and pork without costly segregation, giving producers and consumers the ability to differentiate between American and foreign products. Finally, it reads that “Congress supports legislation to reinstate County of Origin labeling for pork and beef to allow consumers to make an informed and free choice about where their food comes.
R-CALF USA applauded the effort and said the 2013 implementation of COOL coincided with stronger cattle prices.
“Senator Tester’s resolution calling on Congress to reinstate COOL for beef and pork is the start we have been waiting for to help us encourage Congress to once again provide us the tools we need to compete in our own domestic market,” said Mike Schultz, the group’s COOL Committee Chair.
R-CALF USA has been actively urging Congress and President Trump not to pass the USMCA (new NAFTA agreement) unless mandatory COOL is included.
On Oct. 23, USCA filed petition for rulemaking with the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to address “Product of the U.S.A.” and “Made in the U.S.A.” claims on U.S. beef. The petition calls for an end to the practice of labeling imported beef as “Product of the United States” after it has been processed or “handled” at a USDA-inspected facility.
“USCA contends that voluntary labels indicating ‘Made in USA,’ ‘Product of USA’ or similar content should be limited to beef from cattle born, raised, and harvested in the United States,” said their news release.
Along those lines, U.S. Sens. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and John Thune (R-S.D.) introduced the U.S. Beef Integrity Act to “make certain that the Product of the U.S.A. label only goes to beef and beef products exclusively derived from one or more animals born, raised and slaughtered in the United States.”
Another COOL-supporting cattle group, R-CALF USA said in a statement that it is concerned that the effort to correct “voluntary” labeling abuses could thwart efforts to re-instate mandatory COOL.
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Outtagrass Cattle Co. cartoon by Jan Swan Wood for the June 19, 2021, edition of Tri-State Livestock News