Will country of origin labels raise the cost of meat?

USDA estimated the cost to implement mandatory country of origin labeling in the first year alone will be about $2.5 billion.  Given the costs associated with recordkeeping and the necessary segregation of livestock and meat in plants based on their origin that will be critical in ensuring label accuracy, that number could be too low.  How these costs will be spread across meat products and how much prices will rise is yet to be determined.

How do these labels benefit consumers?

Congress has determined that country of origin labels are important to consumers. Whether consumers will pay more for this information and if so how much more they will pay at a time when prices are hitting record levels due to spiking livestock feed prices remains in question.


Don't these labels already exist?

Currently, finished products in consumer packaging that are imported from other countries, such as Danish hams or Canadian pork loins, for example, say "Product of Denmark" or "Product of Canada." Before September 30, 2008, if meat was processed in the U.S., it was considered a U.S. product and no labeling was required detailing its geographic history.

Why doesn't this labeling rule apply to foodservice or processed meat products?

Congress determined that products intended for foodservice and processed meat products should be exempt from the law.

How much meat is imported from Mexico?

Very little. However, many young cattle are imported from Mexico and are subsequently raised and processed in the U.S.  If you see a beef product bearing the label "Product of U.S., Mexico," that label reflects the fact that the animal was born in Mexico, but raised from an early age in the U.S. and then processed in the United States.

Are imported meat products as safe as U.S. products?

Exporting meat products to the U.S. is not easy because the U.S. government requires that these products meet the same high standards as U.S. products.  

To be eligible to export to the U.S., a foreign country's inspection system has to be found by USDA to be equivalent to the U.S. system.  In addition, meat plants in other countries that wish to export must document that they are following U.S. food safety standards or standards that are equivalent to U.S. standards. These plants must be certified by the USDA. When the meat products arrive at the U.S. border, they are subject to more safety inspections. Finally, if the imported meat is further processed in the U.S., it is subject again to the inspection requirements administered by USDA.   

Only a limited number of plants within a limited number of nations meet these tough standards. U.S. meat companies wouldn't buy these products, use them in production, and apply the U.S. company label if they weren't confident in the imported product's safety.

To download a consumer-friendly brochure on this topic, click here.


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