Meat producers say COOL is unfair
‘Green’ consumers grow; private label responds
Companies take time to discuss sustainability
Organics groan from recession pains
Japanese frozen dishes nuke in metallized paper tray
Cheese box uses no inner wrap


Meat producers say COOL is unfair

by Pan Demetrakakes
Executive Editor


Country-of-origin labeling (COOL) laws are coming under increasing criticism by meat producers, both within and outside the United States, who say they are unnecessarily restrictive and cumbersome.

COOL went into effect on Oct. 1, and the impact has fallen especially heavily on the meat industry. Some meat processors are refusing to accept cattle or hogs from Canada or Mexico, resulting in prices of up to $30 a head lower than for domestic animals.

Easterday Ranches, a cattle-raising operation in Pasco, Wash., has sued in federal court to invalidate COOL. Up to 40% of cattle in the U.S. Pacific Northwest comes from Canada. Easterday says that COOL is forcing it to segregate Canadian from American cattle during feeding and slaughter, leading to unnecessary expense, and that COOL violates the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Canadian ranchers also are criticizing COOL, saying that major American beef- and pork-processing companies are either restricting Canadian animals to certain days or refusing them altogether. The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association and the Canadian Pork Council want their government to challenge COOL under NAFTA and World Trade Organization rules.

Jurgen Preugschas, president of the pork council, wrote a letter to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper asking for action. “Conditions for Canadian producers deteriorate each day," he remarked.

Ian Sheldon, a professor at Ohio State University specializing in international food trade, told cattlenetwork.com that he doesn’t see much benefit accruing from COOL.

“I'm not sure what the economic logic is,” Sheldon said. “I just don't see what the specific risks are for such a law to be required.” He said COOL could result in across-the-board higher prices for consumers due to the extra costs involved in segregating and labeling foreign products.

TOP DEVELOPMENTS

‘Green’ consumers grow; private label responds
According to a Mintel study, consumers who “always or almost always” buy “green” tripled to 36% between August 2006 and December 2007. To appeal to these environmentally conscious consumers, retailers are introducing recycled, biodegradable and other eco-friendly private label products. Retailers taking advantage of the trend include Safeway, with its Lucerne Cage-Free eggs; Giant Eagle, with its on-pack statement on its organic baked beans, which claims its support for farms with earth-friendly methods; and Pathmark, with its Essentially You breakfast cereal in a 100% recycled paperboard box.

Companies take time to discuss sustainability

As companies gain stronger focus on environmental responsibility, two major corporate sustainability efforts are in the works. First is the Corporate Sustainability Summit, a gathering of executives responsible for the sustainability initiatives of some of the United States’ largest corporations, which will take place Jan. 29-30, 2009 in Austin, Texas. Topics to be discussed include sustainable manufacturing in a global economy, alternative energy, green transportation and logistics strategies, and confronting greenwashing. Second is the Grocery Manufacturers Association’s (GMA) Market Basket Measurement Tool for Sustainability study, which plans to find out the environmental footprint of the average consumer’s weekly grocery purchases. This will help the industry measure the progress of sustainable initiatives.

Organics groan from recession pains
While the food industry is known for being more recession-proof than many other industries, it is predicted that market growth rates for organic food and drink will decline, especially during the current economic struggle. While Mintel reports that the market for organic food and beverage will increase to $7.2 billion, an increase of more than 140% from the $3.0 billion in 2003, it also reports that year-over-year, sales growth has been slowing.

NEW PACKAGES

Japanese frozen dishes nuke in metallized paper tray
Frozen entrees marketed in Japan are the first Asian frozen foods to use a metallized fiber tray from Graphic Packaging International. Ajinomoto Frozen Foods Co. uses the MicroRite tray for its frozen Gratin, a noodle-based dish topped with cheese, pumpkin and broccoli, and Doria, a rice-based dish topped with fried eggplant and spinach. The tray uses aluminum foil laminated to a fiber base to even out the heat produced in the microwave, eliminating overcooked edges and undercooked centers.






Cheese box uses no inner wrap
Soft cheese sold in Austria comes in a paperboard carton that has been specially treated to maintain freshness without an inner film or foil wrap. Bresso Crémeaux cheese from Bongrain SA, a French dairy company, comes in a proprietary paperboard carton that preserves the product without any further packaging. The package bears the German words, “The new Fresh Box with no extra foil.”