While FoodFacts.com has been waiting patiently to announce a different kind of labeling news (for GMOs … which hasn’t quite happened yet), we’re excited to see that at least our meats here in the U.S. will soon carry more significant information for consumers.
Up until now, the U.S. Department of Agriculture requirement for meat labels has been the statement of the animal’s country of origin. New rules set by the USDA will now require steaks, ribs and other cuts of meat to list where the animal was born, raised and slaughtered. So where previously, a product would read “Product of the U.S. and Canada”, it will not read “Born in Canada, raised and slaughtered in the United States.” These rules will apply to cuts of meat like steaks and roasts, not ground meats.
The USDA has required country of origin labels on seafood since 2005 and on meat and other products since 2009. The new rules for meat are meant to bring the U.S. in line with World Trade Organization standards after the organization determined the old labels discriminated against livestock imported from Canada and Mexico.
President Barack Obama’s administration had asked the meat industry in 2009 to voluntarily provide the additional information on labels. The new requirements come after the WTO’s appeals body in June upheld the organization’s earlier decision.
The meat industry and grocery stores have protested the changes. In addition to the new labeling being difficult and complicated to accomplish, it can also lead to higher prices. It is estimated that this change will cost the meat industry between $53 million and $192 million to complete. The National Grocers Association expects the change to cost grocery stores at least $100 million dollars in new signs, labels and machinery.
The rules have had support from other farmers’ organizations, along with consumer and environmental groups. Nearly 230 signed an April letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, including the National Farmers Union, U.S. Cattlemen’s Association and Center for Food Safety.
The National Farmers Union issued a statement Thursday praising the Obama administration for “providing more information on the origins of our food, instead of simply watering down the process.”
“Consumers want and have the right to know where their food comes from,” it added.
FoodFacts.com agrees that consumers have the right to know where their food comes from. Any changes we can make in our food supply that create transparency for the population brings us closer to educated consumption. We can think of a few important next steps for regulation from the government … they would include labeling GMO ingredients in our food supply, as well as requiring a real ingredient list to replace the terms “artificial and natural flavors.” We hope the trend continues.