Thanks to a label that reads “Product of the USA,” for the last several years consumers have been in the know about where their meat is born, raised and processed. However, this will soon change.
In December Congress repealed a labeling law that required retailers to include the animal’s country-of-origin on packages of red meat. This was seen as a major victory by the meat industry, which has fought the labeling law (also known as COOL) in Congress and the courts since the early 2000s.
The risk of mad cow disease from imported cattle prompted congress to first require the labels in 2002. However, the labels weren’t on most packages until 2009, due to delays pushed by the meat industry.
The World Trade Organization found that the labels discriminate against meat raised and slaughtered in countries other than the United States. The WTO had recently allowed Mexico and Canada to impose more than $1 billion in tariffs on U.S. goods in retaliation if the labels were not removed.
Lawmakers said they had no choice but to get rid of the country-of-origin labels after the World Trade Organization repeatedly ruled against them.
Before this repeal took place labels told shoppers that a particular cut of meat was “born, raised and slaughtered in the United States” or “born in Canada, raised and slaughtered in the United States.”
This repeal is certainly a disappointment. Labels not only promote the sale of meat raised by American ranchers, they also help people make more informed buying decisions. Roger Johnson of the National Farmers Union is quoted as saying “Packers will be able to once again deliberately deceive consumers.”
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