Deceptive Meat Labeling Is Not COOL

July 12, 2021

Country-of-origin labeling laws should mean what they say.

Immigrants are swarming over our borders. They’re coming over from Mexico, and sometimes Canada, in huge crowds. They’re pretending to be American, and they’re getting away with it.

Just because they have four legs.

The Biden administration is promising to look at the question of under what circumstances meat can be sold as “Made in the USA,” “Product of USA” or similar language. As it stands, steers and other meat animals that were raised, even slaughtered, in Mexico or Canada get to use such nomenclature as long as they’re at least cut up and packaged here.

Country-of-origin-labeling (COOL) has always been problematic. It became especially so in 2015, when Canada and Mexico successfully challenged U.S. COOL laws before the World Trade Organization, leading to their repeal. As a result, even meat from animals that stayed out of the U.S. until final processing steps can legitimately bear “Product of USA” on its packaging.

A recent executive order from President Biden addressed many facets of alleged anti-competitive behavior by businesses. Included in this is a review of the COOL situation.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack issued a statement promising “a top-to-bottom review of the ‘Product of USA’ label,” but stopping short of a commitment to requiring that the animals be born and bred here. Not surprisingly, ranchers are pushing for that commitment, while meat processors oppose it.

We’re a magazine for processors, but this time I have to land on the side of the ranchers.

Consumers in general want to know where their food comes from. That’s the whole point of COOL laws. Telling them that meat was a “Product of USA,” when all that happened to it here was getting cut up and packaged, is misleading to the point of mendacity.

I’ve never been one for blind chauvinism, but processors who want the marketing benefit of saying their meat is American should use animals from America. If you want the pride, pay the price.

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