COOL needs to be mandated | TSLN.com

COOL needs to be mandated

James Schmidt
Menoken, North Dakota

A recent op-ed on Country of Origin Labeling says, "Everyone wants to know where their food is produced. Does it need to be government mandated?" It then goes on to say that several successful product labels are available, saying "Certified Angus Beef is one of the most recognized labels out there."

It is true that there are some great branded programs out there, but it is also true that there is government oversight to verify their claims, and it is true that they have either been through PVP or the rulemaking process. However, those assurances only go so far.

The op-ed asks "Does it need to be government mandated?" Well, in the case of the many Angus Beef labels, any cattle that are 51% black-hided, whether they be Angus, Salers, Simmental, Limousin or something else, can be stamped Angus Beef, whether they are truly Angus or not.

I think consumers expect more from a US Beef label. I think as a food producer we all realize our greatest asset is our consumer and losing their trust or the integrity of our label is not conducive to a sustainable business environment.

But that is exactly what will happen if COOL is repealed by the Senate. Beef labeling will revert to the old voluntary standards where any imported cattle harvested in the US can be labeled as US Beef; or any beef imports that are further processed, cut-up, ground, cooked, or even seasoned will become US Beef (or at least labeled that way). You can bet the packers will reap the profits from these cheaper imports by passing them off to unsuspecting consumers.

That's exactly what consumers don't want and that is exactly what US cattle producers don't want. It's one of the main reason's ranchers sought the COOL law in the first place—to prevent such deceptive practices. That's why it is important we maintain the integrity of the US Beef label through law.

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Ideally, we would retain mandatory labeling of US beef. But if it becomes impossible to retain the mandatory label, it is absolutely essential that we keep the same labeling standards on a voluntary label. It is misleading to consumers, actually I might say most people would say it is downright dishonest, to pass off beef born and raised in a foreign country as US beef just because it is harvested or transformed (cut-up, ground, cooked or seasoned) in the US.

In fact, the current "Made in America" label that is regulated by the FTC has the same problems. If there is any "substantial transformation" occurring in the US, that final product can be labeled "Made in the US."

So yes my friend, the answer to your question is yes, if you want your beef to be born, raised and harvested in the United States of America, it does need to be government mandated. That is why you need a law stating clearly that any beef labeled in the U.S. as "US Beef," be born, raised, and harvested in the U.S.

As for the comments that study after study shows consumers don't want to pay added costs for US Beef or that there is no economic value to labeling US Beef, that's simply is not true. Consumers want to know where their food comes from. There are several studies stating consumers are willing to pay a premium for such information, and I only know of one study that says there is no economic value for differentiating one's product.

That study was done by Kansas State University (KSU), a known opponent to COOL. They failed terribly in their analyses by not disclosing the fact that there has yet to be investment to promote or market US Beef. Furthermore, they failed to disclose that in the greatest, most robust beef markets in the world, that of the International market arena, where US Beef is promoted and marketed daily, last year US Beef averaged $3.27/lb. while the next closest competitor Canada received only $2.53/lb. Nothing can trump reality, like real world market responses.

COOL offers a tremendous opportunity for US producers and US consumers. We invite our Canadian and Mexican neighbors, along with NAMI (North American Meat Institute) and NCBA to join us in becoming part of a responsible food producing community. Support us in letting consumers know where their food comes from. There can be nothing more basic and fundamental to this growing demand from consumers to know where there food comes from, than COOL F

James Schmidt

Menoken, North Dakota