LOS ANGELES – The meat industry is a global business, but many consumers don’t realize how far their hamburger may have traveled to end up on their plates.
New federal labeling rules set to take effect today will illuminate that process by requiring meatpackers to list where livestock was born, raised and slaughtered. That’s a step up from the current law, which only requires labeling country-of-origin.
The new rules update a law known as country-of-origin labeling (COOL) and are being applauded by consumer advocates and some U.S. beef ranchers who see the regulations as a victory for food safety and domestic sales.
Major meatpackers such as Cargill Inc. and Tyson Foods Inc. oppose the law as wasteful and costly. They argue that the U.S. already has rules in place to enforce food safety and fear the law will unfairly shrink demand for imported meat.
The USDA estimates that compliance will cost the meat industry between $53.1 million and $192.1 million.
Included in those costs will be the elimination of commingling – the farming of livestock from different countries, which created efficiencies for meatpackers. Livestock will now have to be separated according to origin, which will require new infrastructure for the meat industry.
Canada and Mexico say the law has already led to weaker livestock exports and have challenged the regulation through the World Trade Organization.
Tyson announced in October it had stopped buying slaughter-ready Canadian cattle because of the cost of adhering to the new version of COOL.
The law, which was approved by Congress in 2002, grew out of fears over imported mad-cow disease.