Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Food industry needs to listen to consumers, support Country of Origin Labeling, researchers say

Meatpackers, one of the most vocal opponents of Country of Origin Labeling (COOL), should listen to what consumers want and support the rules, Daryll Ray and Harwood Schaffer of the Agricultural Policy Analysis Center at the University of Tennessee, opine for Policy Pennings. "There is a growing number of consumers who want to know where and how their food is being raised. All it takes is a trip through the produce aisle to see that every apple, pear, bell pepper, tomato and . . . has a little sticker on it telling consumers the variety and where it was produced—in some cases it lists the farm on which the item was produced. For those buying local that is an important bit of information."

"To the extent that major packers and processors ignore the growing consumer trend of requiring more exacting information about food products, the greater are the opportunities for a myriad of small local/regional operators willing to tell consumers where the meat they are selling was born, raised and slaughtered," Ray and Schaffer write.

"It is interesting to us that one of the (283) groups most vocal in its opposition to COOL is the meatpacking industry, given that they are in a position to sabotage the law and make sure that it has a negative impact on livestock producers in Canada and Mexico," Ray and Schaffer write. "It has been alleged that packers have limited the processing of imported animals to certain days in order to make it easier to segregate born, raised and processed in the US beef from imported animals that would require a label saying, born and raised in Canada and processed in the US."

"Given the fact that livestock owners are paid on the basis of grade and yield, it is clear that packers have the capability to track each animal through the process," Ray and Schaffer write. "So how much more difficult could it be for their computers to also record the place of birth, raising and slaughter in the same data record that they use to pay the producer?"

"Yes, different cuts of meat may go down different lines in the plant, but how hard can it be to attach a computer generated tag to each intact cut?" Ray and Schaffer write. "At the end of the line, intact cuts requiring the same COOL label could then be boxed together so there is no confusion when the meat reaches the retailer. For supermarkets that receive prepackaged meat cuts, the work would even be easier; they could be labeled by the packer using data from the computer generated tag." (Read more)

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