OCM stands firm on consumers’ right to meat origin info
(June 25, 2015) -This week the Organization for Competitive Markets stood firm behind American consumers’ right to meat origin information and refused to back down on their long-standing position to support mandatory Country of Origin labeling on meat products sold at retail.
"Our stance is right for consumers and for America’s independent farmers and ranchers. They can count on us to stand firm in supporting their interests," said Mike Callicrate, a rancher from St. Francis, Kan., and the association’s president.
In a move that conflicts with the views of the overwhelming majority of consumers, several industry representatives who testified June 25 before the U.S. Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee said the mandatory labeling program on beef and pork products should be replaced with a voluntary system.
Immediately after U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, of Kansas, demanded that Country of Origin labeling be discarded, the committee’s ranking member, Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, introduced a compromise proposal to make origin labels "voluntary."
"Don’t be misled or duped by this so-called compromise," said OCM board member Fred Stokes, a rancher from Porterville, Miss. "Before COOL was mandatory, it was voluntary, and not one packer labeled their products. Make no mistake, they will hide the source of their food from American consumers unless they are forced to reveal it."
According to the Consumers Union, surveys consistently show that more than 90 percent of consumers prefer to have a country-of-origin label included on the meat they buy.
"In the early 1900s, the big meatpackers hid the quality and origin of their meat behind vague and deceptive company brands. That’s why, in 1916, the USDA established the National Livestock Market News Service and a meat grading system to provide both consumers and producers with important market information," Callicrate said. "Competitive markets demand transparency, which allows for consumers to make choices in the marketplace. With the monopolistic concentration among the packers that we have today, independent farmers and ranchers are limited from distinguishing their products and concerned consumers who want to support their farm and ranch neighbors lack crucial information they need for doing so. Retreating from mandatory country of origin is clearly a step in the wrong direction."
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