Country of origin labeling (COOL) is undergoing a backlash among both domestic and foreign meat producers, who call the regulation unnecessary and unfair.
COOL went into full effect at the beginning of October. It
requires meat, fish, perishable agricultural commodities like grain and
produce, and certain other products to be identified by its packaging as to its
country of origin. COOL actually was passed by Congress in the 2002 Farm Bill,
but its implementation for everything except fish was delayed until late 2008.
Canadian meat producers have protested the loudest against
COOL, saying it requires American feedlots and meat processors to segregate
Canadian cattle and hogs. Some processors will handle Canadian animals only on
certain days; others refuse them entirely. According to Canadian meat trade
associations, this has driven down the prices they can receive for their
animals in the U.S.
The Canadian government filed a complaint over COOL in early
December with the World Trade Organization, alleging that it violates the North
American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
“We believe that the country-of-origin legislation is
creating undue trade restrictions to the detriment of Canadian exporters,”
Canadian Trade Minister Stockwell Day said in a statement.
In addition, 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.
Ian Sheldon, a professor at Ohio State University specializing in international
food trade, told cattlenetwork.com that he doesn’t see much benefit accruing
“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.
COOL sparks backlash among meat producers
January 1, 2009