Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Country Of Origin Labels On Meat May Disappear

Charles Michael Ray

Meat you buy in the local supermarket may no longer carry a label showing what country it came from following a ruling by the World Trade Organization.

The WTO ruled country of origin labeling hurts the livestock industry in Canada and Mexico.  Officials in the trade organization say if the US wants to continue country of origin labeling,  it has to pay about $1.2 billion dollars in damages to the two countries. The U.S. House repealed COOL, or Country of Origin Labeling, the Senate is likely to follow suit.

Articles of clothing and many manufactured goods contain country of origin labeling, but according to the WTO cuts of meat are different.  Silvia Christen the Executive Director of the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association questions why.

“I do not know what the difference is between labeling a T-shirt verses a T-bone, that’s what this is down to.  I don’t know what the crux is on this and I’m really sad that I’m afraid the end result is we’re going to lose the labels on our beef pork and poultry products,” says Christen.  

Christen e disputes claims that this labeling gives US producers an unfair advantage.  But the Canadians don’t see it this way.   

“COOL or Country of Origin Labeling has been discriminatory, it has hurt the economies of Canada, Mexico and the United States,” says  Jamshed Merchant the Canadian Consul General for Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, and the Dakotas.   He says US, Mexican, and Canadian livestock production is so interrelated that Country of Origin Labeling is too costly for the industry to implement.  

“It’s the segregation of the animals and the extra cost to the industry that is the issue.  This is not about labeling product.  There is different ways to label product,” says Merchant.

But supporters of COOL say the meat packing industry has manipulated this issue in its own favor.  They say that too few meat packing companies control too much of the market. Opponents of COOL counter that a long list of North American organizations lobbied for an end to labeling.   In the end the US Senate may capitulate.  Senator John Thune says he supports COOL, but the high tariffs imposed by the WTO force the price of meat over the limit of what US consumers can bear.