Beef Labeling Receives Much Congressional Attention
U.S. Senators John Thune, R-S.D., a longtime member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Jon Tester, D-Mont., Mike Rounds, R-S.D., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., introduced the American Beef Labeling Act, legislation that would reinstate mandatory country of origin labeling (MCOOL) for beef. This legislation would require the U.S. Trade Representative, in consultation with the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, to develop a World Trade Organization-compliant means of reinstating MCOOL for beef within one year of enactment. USTR would have six months to develop a reinstatement plan followed by a six-month window to implement it. If USTR fails to reinstate MCOOL for beef within one year of enactment, it would automatically be reinstated for beef only.
“Transparency in labeling benefits both producers and consumers,” said Thune. “Unfortunately, the current beef labeling system in this country allows imported beef that is neither born nor raised in the United States, but simply finished here, to be labeled as a product of the USA. This process is unfair to cattle producers and misleading for consumers. When you see a ‘product of the USA’ label on the grocery store shelf, it should mean just that.
It has been nearly six years since MCOOL was repealed. Congress included COOL repeal in the $1.4 trillion omnibus spending bill of 2015 after the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled Canada and Mexico could begin imposing more than $1 billion in tariffs on U.S. products to punish it for the harm the labeling requirements were doing to them. USDA’s regulations to implement country of origin labeling were previously upheld by U.S. Courts when they were challenged by North American meat producers. The WTO, however, found the labeling scheme amounted to a non-tariff trade barrier prohibited by trade agreements signed by the U.S.
“It’s time to restore mandatory country of origin labeling once and for all,” said Rounds. “This is an important step in restoring market integrity for consumers and cattle producers. For too long, the packers have skewed this market in their favor. Now, we take it back. I’m thankful to my colleagues for helping carry this important issue for consumers and cattle producers. I’ve long said that consumers will need to drive and help carry this policy debate. For those of us who support MCOOL for beef, this is just the start. The nine major cattle producing states won’t get this done alone. We need a national campaign to see this over the finish line.”
Other bills regarding labeling have also been introduced into congress this session. The Food Labeling Modernization Act was introduced by Representative Blumenthal in August as well as work with Truth in Labeling regarding the labeling of beef as a Product of the USA. KCA supports implementing mandatory of country of origin labeling, and supports the passage of the American Beef Labeling Act. We also encourage congress to implement definitions that prevent the labeling of imported beef as “Product of the USA” or of any other type of misleading characteristics.
Additionally, the Food Safety and Inspection Service has opened comments for defining the labeling of lab-grown meat “cell cultured or test tube meat”. KCA strongly opposes any critique, definition, label or reference for any food product traditionally raised and inspected as anything other than “clean” as it is a fallacy of composition and misleading advertisement. KCA supports any and all restrictions for alternatives and/or laboratory harvests from defining a product as “clean meat” for the purposes of alluding that traditionally raised protein as something other than clean, wholesome, healthy, and/or safe.