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How Many Countries Has Your Steak Been In? Country of Origin Labeling Laws Tighten


If you still think the conventional meat in your supermarket comes from a local, small-scale family farm, a new federal labeling rule will cut through the myths.

In effect since 2009, the newest updates to the Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) law brings the U.S. in line with standards set by the World Trade Organization, after the WTO upheld its decision to require stricter accuracy in labeling. The new rules require labels on cuts of meat (ribs, steaks, roasts, but not ground beef) to state where in the world the animal was born and raised and eventually slaughtered.

Previous rules only required a product state "Product of U.S.", but under the new rules, the labels must read more accurately: "Born in Canada, raised and slaughtered in the United States."

The new rule is being met with a backlash from the meat industry, reports the Huffington Post: "The National Grocers Association issued a statement expressing its "strong frustration" over what it sees as "unnecessary" regulation." In a statement, NGA president and CEO, Peter Larkin said, "The costs of this new change will far exceed the benefits intended and will result in no meaningful consumer benefits," pleading with Congress to "create a legislative fix."

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From the Organic Authority Files

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association chimed in with concerns as well: "While trying to make an untenable mandate fit with our international trade obligations, USDA chose to set up U.S. cattle producers for financial losses," the association said in a statement. "Moreover, this rule will place a greater record-keeping burden on producers, feeders and processors through the born, raised and harvested label."

Cargill, one of the largest meatpackers in the U.S., also protested the ruling, citing the U.S. reliance on cattle born outside of the country due in large part to recent droughts affecting much of U.S. farm and ranch lands and causing beef shortages.

According to USDA estimates, the labeling requirements could cost between $53.1 million and $192.1 million.

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

Image: Phil Denton

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