What Every Shopper Must Know About a Meat Label Change

Retailers no longer are required to reveal key details about the meat you buy. Find out what's behind the change.

What Every Shopper Must Know About a Meat Label Change Photo (cc) by Mark Turnauckas

Retailers are no longer required to tell shoppers the country in which animals sold as specific types of meat were born, raised or slaughtered.

Congress recently repealed parts of a federal law governing country-of-origin labeling (COOL). The action was passed as part of the omnibus spending bill approved last month.

The change is effective immediately, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That means the federal agency no longer enforces COOL requirements for the affected meats.

The meats that are no longer subject to COOL requirements as a result of the repeal are:

  • Muscle cuts of beef
  • Ground beef
  • Muscle cuts of pork
  • Ground pork

COOL requirements remain in effect for other types of meat and seafood, however, including:

  • Muscle cuts of chicken
  • Ground chicken
  • Muscle cuts of lamb
  • Ground lamb
  • Muscle cuts of goat
  • Ground goat
  • Wild fish
  • Farm-raised fish
  • Wild shellfish
  • Farm-raised shellfish

COOL requirements also remain in effect for the other types of food the law covers, including:

  • Fresh fruit
  • Frozen fruit
  • Fresh vegetables
  • Frozen vegetables
  • Peanuts
  • Pecans
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Ginseng

According to an Associated Press report:

Lawmakers said they had no choice but to get rid of the labels after the World Trade Organization repeatedly ruled against them. The WTO recently authorized Canada and Mexico, which had challenged the law, to begin more than $1 billion in economic retaliation against the United States.

Some groups had opposed the rule. Philip Ellis, president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, said in a news release issued last month:

“COOL has plagued our industry for many years now, costing us millions and driving us to the brink of retaliation from two of our largest trading partners. Cattle producers have had to bear the cost of this failed program for far too long.”

However, consumer watchdogs have supported COOL. For example, the nonprofit Consumers Union, which is the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, announced last year that it strongly supports country-of-origin labeling:

Those standards … were developed to give you valuable information when you’re shopping. In the event of a food-borne illness outbreak, for example, country-of-origin labeling can help you avoid potential risks or easily identify products that you prefer.

How do you feel about the rule change? Share your thoughts with us below or on Facebook.

Karla Bowsher
Karla Bowsher
I’m a freelance journalist and former newspaper reporter who has covered both personal and public finance. I've worked for a top 50 major metro daily and a community newspaper as well as ... More

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