Bombshell on the COOL Deal
Mar 08, 2013
In one of those Friday afternoon surprises, USDA released the text of its new Country of Origin Labeling regulations. A quick reading looks like a total win for the anti-Canadian forces
Not everybody has had time to react, though both the National Farmers Union and the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association were quick to jump for joy. NCBA issued a short statement, but AMI has yet to release a statement as I wrote this. Neither have the producers’ groups in Mexico or Canada.
They will. And they won’t like it.
The amendment says, in part: "Under this proposed rule, origin designations for muscle cut covered commodities derived from animals slaughtered in the United States would be required to specify the production steps of birth, raising, and slaughter of the animal from which the meat is derived that took place in each country listed on the origin designation. In addition, this proposed rule would eliminate the allowance for any commingling of muscle cut covered commodities of different origins. These changes will provide consumers with more specific information about muscle cut covered commodities."
That would seem to say that ever package of meat would have to labeled with total background information—where the animal was born, where he was "raised" and where he was harvested—and both boxes and ground meat would have to be labeled separately.
Managing that sort of trail would seem to bode major impacts on both packers and producers.
The regulation came in response the WTO ruling against the way USDA opted to institute the COOL labels. Feeders and packers were concerned about the problems they would have in maintaining identification on cattle from various sources, and so had allowed general labels saying a package might be from various countries.
This regulation would seem to remove that option and, as USDA suggests, put a lot of extra expense on packers—"$32,764,500 with a range of $16,989,000 to $47,326,500"-to be exact.
"The major cost of implementing the proposed amendments will be incurred at the packing or processing facility, in the case of pre-labeled products, or at the retail level, in the case of products labeled at retail. The estimated number of firms that would need to augment labels for muscle cut covered commodities is 2,808 livestock processing and slaughtering firms, 38 chicken processing firms, and 4,335 retailers."
And what do we get for that? "The Agency believes that the incremental economic benefits from the proposed labeling of production steps will be comparatively small."
The proposal is to be published in the Federal Register on Monday.