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AMI Testifies Against Mandatory Country-of-Origin Labeling

Wednesday, April 28, 1999

Mandatory country-of-origin labeling will result in enormous costs for U.S. livestock producers, meat packers, retailers and government without any discernible benefits to consumers or industry, according to American Meat Institute President J. Patrick Boyle. He noted that a wide array of options are already available to market and promote U.S. products.

Boyle made his statement in testimony before the House Livestock and Horticulture Subcommittee today. His comments were in response to several bills introduced in the 106th Congress which would require country-of-origin labeling for U.S. meat products.

Boyle said mandatory country-of-origin labeling would not limit competing imports or promote U.S. products, as proponents have suggested. Boyle also distinguished mandatory country-of-origin labeling from existing voluntary programs, such as the “Certified U.S.” meat program created last year by the USDA, which are already available. He also noted that meat marketers have developed numerous brands for fresh beef, pork and lamb, as a way to promote their products to consumers whose chief concerns consistently have been quality, price, convenience and nutrition.

“We believe mandatory country-of-origin labeling is not only not helpful, but actually harmful to the U.S. livestock, meat and retail industries,” Boyle stated.

Among the groups who would bear the financial burden of mandatory country-of-origin legislation, said Boyle, are livestock producers, who would absorb hundreds of millions of dollars in costs to implement a verifiable audit trail to guarantee labeling accuracy.

Meat packers would also expend hundreds of millions dollars annually due to increased costs for domestic vs. foreign product segregation, recordkeeping, inventory management labeling and other plant operations.

Additional country-of-origin labeling costs of $375 million would be incurred by the retail industry, such as grocery stores and supermarkets, Boyle stated.

Finally, according to Boyle, the USDA has estimated it would have to spend an additional $60 million annually for FSIS compliance monitoring – a full 10 percent of its food safety budget.

“AMI supports constructive and voluntary efforts to market U.S. meat products in many ways. But we oppose mandatory country-of-origin labeling legislation as a costly and harmful requirement that will not achieve the desired marketing results,” Boyle said.

Joining Boyle’s panel in testifying before the House Subcommittee against the proposed legislation were John McNutt, president, National Pork Producers Council; Timothy M. Hammonds, president and C.E.O., Food Marketing Institute; and Steven C. Anderson, president and C.E.O., American Frozen Food Institute.

AMI represents the interests of packers and processors of beef, pork, lamb, veal and turkey products and their suppliers throughout North America. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Institute provides legislative, regulatory and public relations services, conducts scientific and economic research, offers marketing and technical assistance and sponsors education programs.

For more information contact:
Janet Riley
Vice President, Public Affairs
James Ratchford
Manager, Public Affairs

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