Product of USA Label is Misleading American Consumers
When Congress repealed COOL (Country of Origin Labeling) for beef and pork in 2015 it allowed Multinational packers to start labeling beef and pork imported from foreign countries with a Product of USA label – allowing unfettered use of the USDA stamp which misleads consumers.
MFU is working with Representatives Frank Smith (HD 31) and Willis Curdy (HD 98) and Senator Tom Jacobsen (SD 11) to sponsor bills in the upcoming legislative session that will allow the consumers to know where their beef and pork was born, raised and harvested. LC0371 will require the processor, not the local grocery retailer, to identify the accurate Country-of-Origin of beef and pork products. There is a federal effort underway to address provisions within the federal “Product of USA” bill to address definitions for beef and pork that are born, raised and harvested in the United States. Montana Farmers Union supports these bills because consumers have the right to know where their meat comes from and ranchers deserve a fair market price for their products.
Five myths of COOL…debunked.
Myth 1. WTO forced the end of COOL.
Multinational corporations doing business in the United States worked to get Canada and Mexico to file lawsuits with the World Trade Organization (WTO) to stop labeling COOL for all meats. Appeals were filed, negotiations were underway at the WTO when Congress, under pressure from large packing houses voted to repeal COOL before the negotiations were complete. However, USDA currently applies the Country of Origin label to all other meats, fruits, and vegetables. There is not a valid reason that allows the United States to enforce some country labels and not others.
Myth 2. COOL is unfair to retailers and could put them in jail
These bills only require retailers to sort their beef and pork products and place a COOL placard nearby. This information will require meat packers to report the source of boxed meat sent to markets. Many stores already show local produce or meat in their stores. If the retailer cannot determine the Country of Origin they can put a placard nearby stating Imported Meat or Country of Origin Unknown. Previously, there were no retailers jailed or fined when Montana passed and enforced the 2005 COOL placarding bill.
Myth 3. COOL is unconstitutional.
Montana passed the placard bill in 2005 and it was signed into law and only sunset when COOL was enforced federally. There were no claims of unconstitutionality filed. What is unconstitutional is false advertising and misleading consumers.
Myth 4. COOL will add cost to beef and pork making it less competitive against other meats.
Other meats such as poultry, lamb and seafood already require COOL. The price of beef and pork did not change in the grocery store when COOL was repealed. However, the price received by Montana ranchers and feeders fell as packers recorded record profits.
Myth 5. Consumers will be turned off if they see placards saying imported or country of origin unknown on beef and pork product.
Under current practice, the United States and Montana are currently stating that the consumer needs to know where their poultry and seafood comes from – but not beef and pork. Since contaminated meat recalls in have skyrocketed in the last few years, many consumers are questioning safe food policy. Consumers are watching with great interest the fines levied against foreign owned meat processing plants using beef and pork imported from other countries. Don’t consumers deserve to know the truth? This past year has taught us a good lesson when it comes to food security in the United States. Food Security includes food safety and traceability. Safety concerns consumers today and they want to know where products are born, raised and harvested.
For more information, visit the Montana Farmers Union Legislative Action page.