States address COOL for beef: Wyoming committee passes bill, Oklahoma to consider one
One at a time, cattle states are addressing the issue of accurate country of origin labeling for beef.
The Wyoming House Ag Committee passed “The Country of Origin Placard Bill” by a vote of 6 to 3 on Feb. 22.
The Wyoming Farm Bureau, Powder River Resource Council and R-CALF USA spoke in support of the bill.
The Wyoming Stock Growers Association spoke against the bill, according to an R-CALF USA news release.
The legislation would require all beef to be identified as to its origin with a sign located next to the beef in the grocery store. Only beef exclusively born, raised, and slaughtered in the United States would be eligible for the U.S.A. placard.
An Oklahoma legislator, Carl Newton from Cherokee is hoping to introduce a similar bill in his state next week. The District 58 representative who grew up on a farm and ranch is working with legislative staff to draft a bill that would require that beef that is born, raised and slaughtered in the U.S. be identified with placards in stores. Beef not born, raised and slaughtered in the U.S. would not have to be identified.
“Currently any beef processed in the United States is considered U.S. beef even if it was grown in Brazil or Mexico or Canada or another country.
“We hold our beef producers to a higher standard, and for them to compete with these other countries’ beef that is being called U.S. beef isn’t fair marketing.”
Brad Hutchison, the president of the new R-CALF USA affiliate, the Oklahoma Independent Stockgrowers Association said his group is in favor of the bill.
“It’s a producer and consumer issue. Consumers want to go to the grocery store and know what they are buying.”
Hutchison, a rancher, said that beef produced by cattle born, raised and slaughtered in the United States is produced under stricter guidelines than foreign beef.
“I think we have a superior product. I think the consumer will tell what product they want and the packer will have to come back and do their procuring here instead of around the world.”
The cost to grocery stores will be minimal because beef processers have access to the information about each carcass, but do not always pass it on. The bill will require the packers to divulge the origin of beef to the grocers, he said.
A spokesman for the Oklahoma Farm Bureau said that because the bill language is not available yet, they cannot speak to whether they would support or oppose the bill. “We will be watching the bill as it navigates through the legislative process and would look forward to visiting with the authors about their intent with the new law,” said Bray Haven, Associate Director of Public Policy.
The Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association did not respond to multiple requests for comments.
Colorado representative Kimmi Lewis introduced a country of origin labeling placard bill that did not pass the ag committee after strong opposing testimony from the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association and the Colorado Farm Bureau, and supporting testimony from the Colorado Independent Cattlegrowers Association, consumers and chefs.
Both South Dakota and North Dakota statutory records contain a form of mandatory country of origin labeling for beef but neither state enforces them.
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Outtagrass Cattle Co. cartoon by Jan Swan Wood for the June 19, 2021, edition of Tri-State Livestock News