The American Farm Bureau Federation told the Agriculture Department it is concerned that even after the new mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL) program takes effect on Sept. 30, there still may be no exclusively U.S. labeled meat available to consumers.
In a letter this week to USDA Undersecretary Bruce Knight, AFBF President Bob Stallman said Farm Bureau is concerned about USDA's interpretation of COOL, as passed by Congress. USDA's interpretation would allow marketers to use a less-demanding "mixed origin” or "from multiple countries” label, even for meat that was exclusively U.S. born, raised and slaughtered. Instead, AFBF believes meat that is exclusively born, raised and slaughtered in the U.S. should carry an exclusive U.S.-origin label.
"There is now great concern that there will not be any exclusively U.S. labeled meat because many within the industry have said that the only label they will use is ‘Product of the U.S., Canada or Mexico,'” Stallman stressed in his letter. "Farmers and ranchers are being told by some processors that unless they check the multiple-origin label box (to certify the origin of their animals) on their product affidavits, they will be audited. This information is completely discouraging to a producer, not to mention the fact that it is not a true statement.”
Stallman asked USDA to conduct a "nationwide meat labeling survey” this year to determine how much product, which product and where exclusively U.S.-labeled meat is being sold. The survey will provide both producers and lawmakers objective information to determine if the COOL law or USDA's interim final rule on COOL should be amended to better allow for U.S.-origin labels.