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The Washington Post reports this morning that “an ordinary trip to the supermarket meat department could turn into an experience in international comparison-shopping under House legislation scheduled to be debated today that for the first time would require meat products to be labeled by their country of origin.

“The farm bill House members will consider includes a provision mandating that meat -- including beef, pork and lamb -- include a label stating where it came from. Only meat from animals born, raised and slaughtered in the United States would be eligible for a domestic label.

“The measure aims to enforce a five-year-old law that has already been implemented for seafood but was delayed after meat packers, pork producers and grocery chains claimed it would create a costly bureaucratic and record-keeping nightmare.”

According to the story, “The legislation calls for the USDA to establish rules for the use of three types of labels by the end of 2008. Purely U.S. products would be eligible for a domestic label, but those with mixed origin would be more complicated. For example, a cow born in Mexico and then brought to the United States for slaughter would be labeled as a product of both countries. A third type of label, supporters say, would be used mostly for ground beef or pork and would list all countries the meat could be from.” This represents a major – and industry-friendly - change from the original Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) law, which said that meat that spent any time overseas to be labeled as exclusively a foreign product.

However, the Post notes that the Bush administration is threatening to veto the farm bill over an unrelated dispute with Democrats.

And, the Post reports, the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) “is withholding support until it has more time to review the provision, said Tim Hammonds, president of the organization. Hammonds acknowledged significant improvements in the current measure, including lowering the possible fine to $1,000 from $10,000 per violation, he said. ‘But we're not ready to give up the right to seek additional improvements,’ Hammonds said.”
KC's View:
I have no problem with the industry trying to make COOL more viable, workable and financial feasible.

But as in combat, when some politicians and generals tend to fight the last war, there are some in the industry would like to keep battling COOL, ignoring the fact that recent events have made this kind of labeling inevitable.