Research Finds Mandatory Meat Labels Economically not Worth the Fight

Research Finds Mandatory Meat Labels Economically not Worth the Fight

When you pick up a pound of meat from the grocery store, have you noticed the label indicating where the meat originated? According to new research, most shoppers have no idea the label exists — but that little label is causing a big stir among the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

In October 2014, the World Trade Organization ruled in favor of Canada and Mexico, finding that the mandated country-of-origin labels in the U.S. are not trade compliant and hurt business in nearby countries. The U.S. is appealing the decision. However, research from Kansas State University, in collaboration with Oklahoma State University, finds that most consumers aren't willing to pay extra for the label.

"Less than one-third of the participants surveyed know that it is a law to label where the meat originates," said Glynn Tonsor, associate professor of agricultural economics at Kansas State University. "Effectively, producers lose and consumers lose because we have not observed an aggregate demand increase in response to that origin information."

The labels were implemented in 2009 to provide shoppers more information about the origin of their meat. In 2013, the labels were revised to provide more specifics about the origin, including where the animal was born, raised and slaughtered. Tonsor surveyed consumers in 2009 and in 2013 and found the same results: The majority of shoppers aren't interested in these labels.

"Time and time again, we find that food safety, price, freshness and taste tend to be attributes, regardless of the meat product we're talking about, that rank highly in importance and drive purchasing decisions," Tonsor said. "Social issues like origin, environmental impact and sustainability matter to consumers, but do not drive purchasing decisions."

A decision on the appeal is expected in early 2015. In the meantime, country-of-origin labels are still being used.

Source: Kansas State University

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Spell Check

Obsolete Farmer
Irrelevant, MO
1/14/2015 10:18 AM

  How is it that survey participants "not knowing that it is a law to label meat origin" gets translated into "consumers aren't interested in these labels"?? Our land-grant universities are afraid to step on any corporate toes and jeopardize their donations, but in the process are losing their relevance as unbiased institutions. It's a disgrace to the Morrill Act and President Lincoln's foresight.

Mike Eby
Gordonville, PA
1/14/2015 08:21 AM

  This is very simple to explain... As a Country you must first want to differentiate yourself from other Countries as the you being superior, and then advertise with that kind of passion. Instead this country is more concerned about trade talks. It gets worse... we have Wendy's hamburgers claiming to use "only North American Beef". Did you catch that? North America is not just USA as most people by default assume. North America is Canada, USA and Mexico. This is marketing at its finest. Marketing is merely exploiting the human default behavior. In this case Wendy's is exploiting the consumers small mind. Most think Mexico is Central America, not North America. I am convinced that if the consumer really had the entire story, this COOL legislation supported by the consumer would have unbelievable support. USDA is just unwilling to go to that level and slap the hands of those that exploit. This is the reason consumers are confused.... it's intentional. Beef along with Milk powder is assumed NOT to be imported due to an overabundance of USA farmers already producing our country's needs, so the consumer once again assumes there is no need for importation...Wrong. US processors import not because they can't get it from USA farmers, rather because it is cheaper to buy from Mexico, blend it with USA milk and not label country of origin. Processors mindset is...what the consumer doesn't know won't hurt them. This is my answer to USDA. You want to win this appeal? Want it first. You are defeated before you start. Stop listening to processor lobbyist and start listening to USA Dairy and Beef farmers. Also before USDA draws its conclusions regarding the Consumers. Stand in the grocery store and share USDA "so called convictions" and watch the face of the consumer. I guarantee you they will then buy only USA. Remember USDA, you must first want it. Farmers and consumers want it...speak for us. Mike Eby NDPO Chairman Pa Dairy Farmer


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