U.S. No Longer Requiring Country of Origin Label on Beef and Pork

By Mike Pomranz |

© Daniel Acker/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Lovers of mystery meat have something to get excited about: The U.S. has repealed a law that requires beef and pork to be labeled with its country of origin.

The old law, which was axed as part of the recent omnibus spending bill, was proving to be a double-edged sword. Though it presented clear advantages for consumers interested in knowing where their meat was coming from, the World Trade Organization had ruled that making the labeling mandatory was a protectionist policy—a decision that would have allowed Canada and Mexico to add billions of dollars’ worth of tariffs to American imports.

As expected, those on opposing sides of the issues had very different takes on the change. “U.S. exporters can now breathe a sigh of relief,” said Republican Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas. The repeal saves meat producers the trouble and expense of labeling their meats. It may also benefit Mexican and Canadian ranchers because they will no longer be paid a lower rate for their livestock, which would have required more American tracking to follow the law.

Meanwhile, Roger Johnson of the National Farmers Union had a more negative opinion, stating, “Packers will be able to once again deliberately deceive consumers.” Since the COOL law had both international and domestic repercussions, in many ways, they’re both right.  

It’s worth noting that while the law’s repeal ends mandatory labeling, companies can still choose to voluntarily label meats with information about its origin. If people trusted voluntary labeling, though, we probably wouldn’t have needed a federal law in the first place.

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