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Country of origin labeling M-COOL – The March Deadline Approaches

Alright, onto this.  I’ve realized most of the sites and people here are American so this one may hit home.  I’ve already read one blog on this and I’ve been wanting to do my take on it since the appeal deadline for the USDA is fast approaching.  I just read an article in The Western Producer that has had some of the smartest things I’ve heard yet on this whole issue,

http://www.producer.com/2012/03/u-s-report-favours-harmonization-in-meat-sector%e2%80%a9/

Finally someone’s getting this across.  And it’s part of the “Beyond the border” agreement between Canada and the United States back in December.  Finally some sense is coming back to this.  According to federal ag minister Gerry Ritz from the article,

For all intents and purposes for the beef industry, the border doesn’t exist. There is a free flow of cattle back and forth.

I want to post a comment I made on another blog a few days ago before this article came out,

I’m from Alberta and we’re on the other side of that labeling.  Labeling that’s labeled us different from the U.S beef supply.  I travel down to Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and Colorado a bit.  The Rocky Mountain range.  I feel as at home there as I do in Alberta.  It’s all western traditions, western ranching, western lifestyle.  But this labeling has drawn a line through our western ranching family.  A political line on a map that runs across the rockies.  Ranching doesn’t run east/west like the border.  Ranching runs north south with it’s heart in the foothills of the rockies.  Lines that divide and define that just don’t make sense.

Alright, now COOL.  Country of origin labeling.  Actually M-COOL Mandatory country of origin labeling, which is where the problem lies.  That simple word, Mandatory.  Now I understand most of my potential readers will be Americans that may not have ever visited Canada.  Here we have labels but they’re all marketing gimmicks.  You’ll see large signs in stores, “Alberta Beef” or “Western Canadian Beef” or “Canadian Beef”.  Marketing.  Now I don’t necessary agree with that because there’s no backing that up.  Most of the one’s that advertise Alberta Beef, I’m sure aren’t 100% Alberta beef.  But at the same time I don’t think there should be a rule making them prove it.  Honestly, if consumers really want beef that you know where it comes from, buy it from a small local butcher shop that has it processed locally and can show you that.  Or even better find a rancher that sells their own beef locally.  There are lots of them here in Alberta that have their beef provincially inspected to sell within the province.  Many are quite successful at it.  Once the government gets involved all it does is drive up costs.  Cost to the packers, feedlots and producers because in the end, they’re the ones that will end up paying for all this.

If you want to label beef, label it by what it was fed.  Corn fed, grass-fed, barley fed, etc.  Because then consumers can pick based on taste rather than what pretty coloured flag is on the package.  Like I said in my reply.  I travel down to the western states quite a bit.  I eat American beef, I visit with American ranchers.  We’re all the same and the vast majority of the beef that is affected by this law is Canadian beef.  According to that article,

Moens said this bill was the first of its kind in the world.

Country-of-origin labelling is usually done to increase product value, he added, but the American law added only costs.

Sorting cattle and hogs was expensive for processors, increasing the costs of imported cattle by an estimated $45 to $59 per head while the cost for handling U.S. cattle was just an extra $1.50 per head.

The costs created a strong incentive for processors to buy only American product rather than pay for extra segregation, paperwork and labels.

That’s just not right.  And obviously the WTO saw the same.  I look forward to hearing if the USDA will appeal or like this article says maybe M-COOL will be drastically changed for the better and the U.S and Canada can move closer to a unified beef market.

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