Lincoln Journal Star: USDA: Little economic benefit in country of origin meat labeling


I find this report extremely disappointing and poorly done. The methodology and examination of options are both lacking.

John K. Hansen, President

Nebraska Farmers Union

1305 Plum Street, Lincoln, NE 68502

402-476-8815 Office 402-476-8859 Fax

402-476-8608 Home 402-580-8815 Cell


Lincoln Journal Star

USDA: Little economic benefit in country of origin meat labeling


Country-of-origin labeling does not provide much in the way of “measurable economic benefits” for American consumers, and it costs producers, packers, and retailers in the United States $2.6 billion a year for all covered commodities, USDA’s chief economist said in a 198-page report sent to Congress.

The regulations require labels indicating where beef, pork and poultry are “born, raised and slaughtered.” The USDA report was mandated by the 2014 Farm Bill and was put together by a team of agricultural economists from Kansas State University and the University of Missouri.

“In terms of consumers, USDA’s regulatory impact analyses concluded that while there is evidence of consumer interest in COOL information, measurable economic benefits from mandatory COOL would be small,” the report said. “USDA’s regulatory impact analyses also found little evidence that consumers are likely to increase their purchases of food items bearing U.S.-origin labels.”

USDA’s Office of the Chief Economist contracted with agricultural economists, including Glynn Tonsor and Ted Schroeder, both from Kansas State University, and Joe Parcell at the University of Missouri for their expertise on livestock marketing issues.

The professors did not find any evidence of measurable increases in consumer demand for beef or pork based on the COOL regulations. While the chances of finding consumer economic benefits from COOL were slim, they did recognize the “substantial interest” in COOL by some based on a so-called “consumer’s right to know.”

The report, which Congress demanded be completed within 180 days of the president signing the 2014 Farm Bill, has landed just before the World Trade Organization is expected to rule on whether or not COOL is an unfair trade barrier as claimed by Canada and Mexico.

So far, all the related WTO rulings have gone against the U.S. If the U.S. loses this last appeal, it’s possible that Congress will repeal COOL.

USDA did successfully defend the COOL regulations in U.S. courts.

Bill Bullard, CEO of the United Stockgrowers of America, recently told Congress COOL means that, “No longer can meat from animals born and/or raised in a foreign country be passed off to unsuspecting U.S. consumers as meat deserving of the U.S. farmers’ and ranchers’ reputation.”

USDA’s economists are only the latest to weigh in on the economic impacts of COOL.

Auburn University Professor C. Robert Taylor last month went public with a study that blames a $1.4 billion loss in sales by Canada to the U.S. on an economic downturn, not America’s COOL regulations. Canada’s studies to the contrary form the basis for its claims for billions in reparations from the U.S. for unfair trade practices. Those could impact the U.S. economy far outside the meat industry.

The 2008 Farm Bill called for COOL, which took effect in 2009, with amendments added in 2013.