Mandatory Country Of Origin Labeling (COOL)

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Summary

Implemented in March 2009, Mandatory Country Of Origin Labeling (COOL) requires the mandatory labeling of meat packaged for retail. COOL is not a food safety tool, but simply a marketing tool that provides consumers with information on the origin of where the cattle are born. The addition of a country-of-origin label does not make beef any more or less safe thabn it would otherwise be. The beef industry has worked for years to develop livestock production practices, product handling procedures and industry-wide food safety initiatives to keep the beef supply safe. These innovations, along with effective government regulation, provide multiple firewalls that keep our beef safe. 

Key Points

  • On June 29, 2012 the World Trade Organization (WTO) Appellate Court ruled that even though the United States has the right to have a COOL program, the way in which the mandatory COOL program is currently implemented has created an unfair trade balance in violation of international trade laws.
  • According to the WTO, the costs of compliance and the segregation of Mexican and Canadian cattle puts Mexican and Canadian cattle at a competitive disadvantage to U.S. cattle.
  • In December 2012 the WTO announced that the United States had until May 23, 2013 to change the way it implements COOL for red meat or face potential retaliatory tariffs from Canada and Mexico.
  • In reviewing the complaints filed by Canada and Mexico, it is clear that one of the reasons for their WTO case against the United States is the discrimination they received merely because of the location of origin. That discrimination came in the form of discounts being paid for cattle simply because they originated in either Canada or Mexico. In some case, we were made aware by our members of discounts of up to $60 per head for cattle that came from Mexico. Much of that discount was due to the segregation and recordkeeping required by the packers to comply with COOL.
  • In response, USDA published a new regulation regarding COOL requiring the label to describe where the meat from the animal was “Born, Raise, Slaughtered.”
  • The Office of Management and Budget has found that the amended final COOL rule will have a "significant" economic impact on the industry, in excess of $100 million. These costs will come in the form of increased tracking of animals and increased costs of physically printing and attaching labels.
  • Implementation of the new COOL rule puts U.S. producers, feed lots, processors, and retailers in jeopardy.
  • The market should determine labeling, not government. If consumers truly want labeling, then the market will address that demand accordingly.
  • We need the U.S. government to stop perpetuating the problem and work with Mexico and Canada to find a meaningful solution.

Additional Information

I am an NCBA Member...
...because I think they're the greatest national association
we have in this country. And they provide wonderful
assistance and services to cattlemen across this country.  
-Bob McCan, Texas