Congress Removes Country of Origin Labeling for Meat

The spending bill Congress passed last Friday repealed the country-of-origin labeling (COOL) regulation that lets consumers know where their meat comes from.

It’s every consumer for him/herself, apparently. On Friday, Congress passed a spending bill repealing the country-of-origin (COOL) regulation which lets consumers know where the meat they’re purchasing is sourced from.

The decision follows a ruling from the World Trade Organization (WTO) that determines labels to “discriminate against meat raised and slaughtered outside of United States,” reports Take Part.

The Wall Street Journal reveals that the WTO permitted Mexico and Canada to impose more than $1 billion in tariffs on U.S. goods in retaliation if the labels were not pulled from packages of beef and pork. The two countries are the U.S.’s top agriculture partners.

Lawmakers were concerned, therefore, buckled under the pressure and repealed COOL. President Barack Obama added his signature to the bill as well.

For years, meat packers and members of Congress have fought to repeal the law – even though country-of-origin labels appear on many foods, such as peanuts, fish, and apples.

Said Mark Dopp, a general counsel for the North American Meat Institute, a group that represents livestock producers and meat packers such as Tyson Foods Inc.:

“Our attitude was we were going to use every available mechanism to get a bad idea, and a bad law, repealed. While we couldn’t initiate WTO litigation, we were glad that the Mexican and Canadian governments did.”

With COOL repealed, meat lovers will soon be hard-pressed to figure out whether the animals on their dinner plates were shipped halfway around the world or were raised and slaughtered in the United States.

Roger Johnson, presidents of the National Farmers Union, a Washington, D.C.-based organization, likely summarized it for most when he said:

“This is a rotten way to do legislation, by attaching these barnacles on the omnibus bills in the dark of the night.” 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (SDA) will continue to inspect all meat before it reaches grocery store shelves, but food labeling advocates compare eliminating nation-of-origin labeling with removing ingredient labels – and American consumers want that information.

In fact, a 2013 survey found that 90 percent of Americans supported country-of-origin information on their meat products.

If you don’t know where your meat is being sourced from, you’re likely better off nixing it from you diet completely – or, at least, seeking out a local, grass-fed butcher.

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