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USDA wants meat origins on labels

C. K. Hartman (CC)

C. K. Hartman (CC)


Ever think about where the cow was born and slaughtered when you were biting into a nice, juicy burger? If you’re like most people, probably not. But that might change if the U.S. Department of Agriculture gets its way. Taking “truth in advertising” to a whole new level, the USDA wants to include the location where livestock is born, raised, and slaughtered – along with the dates these things occurred – on meat packaging.

While the reasoning behind this might seem at least a little logical, at least when it comes to tracking meat that causes illness in humans, this isn’t a business-friendly policy particularly for imported meat. Additionally, as with any other governmental requirements in business, this will eventually affect food prices for consumers, and not in a good way. Canada and Mexico have leveled complaints about this proposed policy, stating that it amounts to “thinly-veiled protectionism” meant to corner them out of the U.S. food market.

The Food Marketing Institute, which represents retail giants like Target and single-store groceries, says the new rules will cost many millions of dollars to implement and result in higher food prices.

Canada and Mexico filed legal objections with the World Trade Organization, arguing that their livestock exporters would be hurt by what they see as a protectionist policy. The U.S. lost the initial judgment and again on appeal.
Following the dual setbacks, the Obama administration has until May 23 to revise the program. Changes have been made, but both Canada and Mexico say the revised regulations would still hurt their livestock exporters.

The two nations are joined by unhappy U.S. livestock and food industry groups, including the prime lobbying group for supermarkets, in alleging that it’s all too expensive and unnecessary.

Major U.S. cattle ranchers and consumer groups, however, argue that Americans want to know as much as possible about what they eat.

Of course since this policy would benefit U.S. cattle ranchers, it’s no wonder that they would claim that Americans really do want to see the word “slaughtered” on all their meat purchases. Perhaps the consumer groups also need to figure out what the public really means by the phrase “as much as possible” in this context.

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  1. KBB says:

    Actually, I would like for a law to require the USDA to specify where and how meat is butchered. As I understand it, meat is “halal” certified if it has been butchered according to the rules of Islam…the butcher looks toward mecca and prays to allah as he butchers the cow. I don’t want to eat any meat that is halal certified, that has had anything to do with islam and muslims, and the USDA specification would allow me to avoid such meat. Right now, anything that is branded “Open Nature” is halal certified, so I avoid buying anything of that brand.