Tuesday, June 26, 2007

USDA reopens public comment period on country-of-origin labeling (COOL) amidst beef industry infighting

The U.S. beef industry is in an uproar this month over a policy adopted by the U.S. Congress in 2002, but never yet implemented, which would require a label to inform consumers about the country of origin for meat products.

The American Meat Institute (AMI), which represents packers and processors, has lobbied heavily against country-of-origin labeling (COOL) and published a fierce print ad (.pdf) accusing COOL supporters of being protectionists (see image below).

This accusation outraged the Ranchers Cattlemen's Legal Action Fund (R-Calf), one of several disparate trade associations that seek to represent the interests of ranchers. R-Calf is a prominent supporter of COOL (see fact sheet [.pdf]). After several rounds of angry letters back and forth, R-Calf worried in a June 18 letter (.pdf) about the level of AMI influence with the Secretary of Agriculture on this issue:
If AMI professes to know what requirements the Secretary intends to impose on industry participants to implement the COOL law, then AMI must have been involved in unlawful, ex parte communications with the Secretary in order to obtain such knowledge. If this is the case, then the Secretary’s action of June 15, 2007, to reopen the public comment period for 60 days for the proposed rule for COOL for beef, lamb, pork, and other commodities is a shell game, inasmuch as the outcome of the rulemaking process is already known by AMI before the agency even considers public comments.
If you don't believe the fix is already in, express your own view about whether producers should be required to inform you about the country of origin for your meat. Submit your own public comment to USDA before August 20 (see here for current links and here for instructions on submission).

[Update next day: Here is an improvement on the instructions for sending comments to USDA: "Comments are due August 20 and should be submitted online at www.regulations.gov. Additional means of comment submission are via e-mail to cool@usda.gov; by mail to Country of Origin Labeling Program, Room 2607-S, Agricultural Marketing Service, 1400 Independence Avenue SW, Stop 0254, Washington, DC 2025-0254; or by fax to (202) 720 – 1112.. Additional information on this and the COOL program can be found at http://www.ams.usda.gov/cool."]


Anonymous said...

I tried to follow your instructions and leave comments but could not find the correct document to comment upon. Can you verify and clarify the instructions? Thanks

Anonymous said...

I cant believe how cruel the USDA treats animals. I saw that demeaning video of how those cows were treated. You should be ashamed. I will continue to never eat red meat and let everyone know the truth.

Honorcode1 said...

I am a former beef producer now city dude. I believe consumers have a RIGHT TO KNOW where the things we put in our mouths comes from! Lord have mercy. Who could be against us making "informed" decisions unless you have something to hide. We should be able to know where every vegetable, grain, fruit, sea food etc. or animal product comes from. I also would like to know how it was raised and what unnatural things GMO feeds (chemicals, fumigants, herbicides, pesticides, etc etc etc. it has been subjected to. With cancer up to one of every two people we better start knowing some things.

Anonymous said...

Rights are something important to all of us. America can be proud of the rights our people have fought for. The right to know where our food comes from and how it is processed, what was used on it, whether it is genuinely organic or not is a very important right too. People with children who have allergy or other health issues need to know as well.

I became a vegetarian after reading an article that compared the digestive systems of meat eating animals to those of vegetarian animals. To my surprise, humans have the longer digestive tracts of vegetarian animals. I have also cleared up some health issues since I no longer eat meat (any kind of meat).

I want my soy foods to give me full disclosure too on what is in them.

However those who still choose to consume meat like many in my family should at least be given the tools to make informed decisions. Just like the right to clean water and air, we all should have the right to disclosure of our food.

The beef industry is now becoming more of a bully than ever before and it is sickening. I am so thankful I am not longer part of all that. thank you.