The Country-of-Origin-Labeling (COOL) regulations for beef and pork were repealed by Congress and signed by President Obama on December 18, 2015. The repeal of COOL was in response to pressure applied by the World Trade Organizations (WHO). According to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, effective immediately the USDA is not enforcing COOL Requirements for muscle cut and ground beef and pork. This means that the beef and pork at the grocery store could be from Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, or any of the other 14 countries that meatpackers source their beef for the U.S. market, but you will no longer know it.
COOL originally mandated that labels on meat packaging had to reveal the country (or countries) where the meat animal was born, raised and slaughtered. The repeal of the Country-of-Origin labeling was tucked into the must-pass Omnibus Spending Bill.
R-CALF USA is an organization fighting for the U.S. Cattle Producers. The CEO of R-CALF USA Bill Bullard said, “In the most underhanded way, Congress is depriving all of us of our right to know where the beef or pork we feed ourselves, our children and our grandchildren was born, raised and slaughtered. In secret and without debate, congressional leaders added the repeal of COOL in a must-pass spending bill knowing they could accomplish their self-serving ends without the risk of public input or debate. In the spending bill, the provision that destroys our COOL law cannot be amended or removed. This is government at its worst.”
Bill Bullard went onto say, “Congressional leaders are helping the politically powerful multinational meatpackers to hide the origins of the beef they are importing from Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil and the other countries that are among the 14 countries from where the meatpackers source their beef for the U.S. market. Many consumers and cattle producers have been duped by the meatpackers. Consumers were told that beef from developing countries is just as safe as beef from the U.S., but the truth is that developing countries are no longer required to have food safety systems at least equal to those of the United States.”
Wide spread criticism of the repeal said that the WTO overturned a common sense label supported by a majority of Americans. 90% of those surveyed in 2013 favored country-of-origin-labeling for fresh meat sold in stores.
Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter said, “Congress willingly kowtowed to international trade tribunals to gut COOL and even tossed out the labels for ground meats that the WTO ruled were totally trade-legal—a holiday gift to the meatpacking industry from Congress.”
Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) said, “This is bad public policy and bad for food safety. We should not let trade agreements change our rigorous standards. Informed choice is a bedrock principle of the free market.”
The original bill H.R. 2393: Country of Origin Labeling Amendments Act of 2015 removed all mention of beef, lamb, pork, chicken and replaced those by inserting “muscle cuts of lamb and venison and ground lamb and ground venison.” However, buried deep in the Omnibus spending bill in section 759 is the new language only exempts beef and pork from Section 281 of the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 (7 U.S.C. 1638).
At Red Cedar Bison we are committed to always informing consumers about our meat no matter what Congress ever says now or in the future. We are committed to providing bison meat that adheres to better than organic standards. Bison are native to North America and our bison is always grass-fed and grass finished on the grass from under their hooves. Now, more than ever in history, American consumers should purchase the food they serve their families directly from the farm or ranch it is raised on.