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Wednesday, May 4, 2005

Washington, D.C. -- The American Meat Institute (AMI) today applauded the introduction of H.R. 2068, which will allow consumers to determine the availability of country-of-origin labeling for meat products.

The Meat Promotion Act would provide a framework for converting mandatory country-of-origin labeling, which must be implemented by September 30, 2006, to a voluntary program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

According to AMI, upon reviewing the rules that implemented mandatory country-of-origin labeling, the federal Office of Management and Budget called it one of the most costly regulatory initiatives it had seen during the first Bush Administration. USDA estimates that first year costs for mandatory country-of-origin labeling will be $3.9 billion dollars for all affected industries, with $2.4 billion borne by the U.S. meat industry alone.

Consumer research has not demonstrated strong demand for country-of origin-labeling, according to AMI, a fact that raises major questions about the wisdom of imposing huge costs and driving up meat prices for consumers. When the International Food Information Council asked 1,000 consumers if there is anything not on a food label that they’d like to see, three quarters said no and less than one percent mentioned country-of-origin labeling.

According to AMI, the beef industry, in particular, has been badly hurt by the loss of export markets for beef products following a single case of BSE in 2003. “Imposing added burdens on a financially strained industry with a lack of any demonstrable consumer demand is misguided public policy and we are pleased the members of the House are recognizing this fact,” said AMI President J. Patrick Boyle.

Consumers are paying record high prices for beef due to tight supplies and a closed U.S.-Canadian border. The costly labeling program stands to raise beef prices even higher, as well as the prices for pork, lamb and veal, and could erode consumer demand for meat products, according to AMI. By contrast, poultry products, which are exempt from the law, could be the big winner because they will experience an economic advantage relative to their red meat counterparts.

“We need to keep the meat industry nimble and competitive, especially in these tough economic times,” Boyle said. “Putting consumers in the demand driver seat by making country-of-origin labeling voluntary is smart public policy.”


For more information contact:
David Ray
Vice President, Public Affairs
Janet Riley
Sr. Vice President, Public Affairs

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