The World Trade Organization has declared that the the USDA's COOL (Country Of Origin Label) mandates on muscled meat products violate international trade policies. This ruling was decided after Mexico and Canada filed complaints (in June of last year) to the WTO stating that the words “Product of the U.S” or the Product of USA label on beef products gave the American beef industry an unfair advantage. The USDA has until May 23 to remedy the problem or the US could face trade sanctions.

What's wrong with made in USA meat?

Umm…. anyone else wondering about the “unfair advantage” part of the complaint?  I mean, if I live in the US and want to know that my FOOD is also coming from the US, I will look for that Product of USA label.  I don't see it as an “unfair advantage”.  I see it as factual information making it easy for a consumer to CHOOSE where their food comes from. Maybe Canada and Mexico should look into why consumers prefer American-made products. Just saying.

As a remedy to the WTO's declaration, the USDA has proposed changing the Product of USA labels, only on muscled meats (from beef, chicken, pig, goats…), to state where the animal was born, where it was raised, AND where it was slaughtered.

Well, that's going to help the consumer right? This is what the USDA thinks- consumers should be happy, because now there is MORE information on the label. Retailers and packing plants are not happy at all with this plan. Why? The cost. The meat scales at your local supermarket print out the labels. Currently, the scale labels are not large enough to include all of the proposed required information. New scales will be needed everywhere. Also, it is not guaranteed that Canada and Mexico will be happy with this solution. After money is invested in the new system, these countries could still file another complaint with the WTO.

Hmmm….now might be a good time to get friendly with the meat vendor at your local farmers' market!

As far as other perishable food products go (produce, nuts, shellfish) under the proposed COOL changes, it will be the retailers' responsibility to let consumers know where these products came from.

Read more & Speak up

You can read more about the rule changes in the report from the Federal Register, dated March 12, 2013.

What do you think about WTO ruling? Are the proposed changes a good idea? Will this change affect your meat purchasing?

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Photo credit: “Rare Strip Steak” by Maggie Smith,