The U.S. Department of Agriculture has passed a mandatory country of origin labeling system for all covered commodities. The goal behind the establishment of this labeling system is to promote the consumption of quality goods and to better differentiate between high and low quality goods. The term ‘covered commodities’ refers to beef, pork, lamb, veal, fish, fresh and frozen vegetables and fruit, and peanuts. Products receiving ‘Product of Canada’ labels are born, raised, and slaughtered in Canada , whereas products that were born in Canada but raised in the United States will receive the label ‘Product of Canada and U.S.A’, and so on for each stage of raising and processing before reaching our grocery store shelves.
Since Canada and the United states are each other’s largest agricultural trading partners, the new mandatory legislation raises some questions about whether this will affect the Canadian beef and livestock market. With most of Canadian beef being exported to the United States, some questions about consumer and packer decisions have been raised. Are consumers more prone to buying meet labeled with United States labels only? Or will they warm up to Canadian labels? Will packers change their product to showcase only local, American meat? These possibilities have the Canadian government worried and they are taking a stand to support Canadian farmers by launching a World Trade Organization dispute settlement process. This basically means that the Canadian government is trying to appeal this mandatory labeling process so that our meat is not discriminated against once it hits the shelves.
I am still mostly on the fence about this issue, and I am opening it up to the readers for their thoughts on the issue and how this mandatory legislation may affect the Canadian livestock industry. One of the major arguments from the Government of Canada is that the regulations are very strict and make it very difficult for Canadian farmers to keep their competitive edge. Regulations such as the extra record keeping of livestock, as well as the segregation between livestock imported from different countries creates more obstacles to overcome, but at the same time, maybe it’s more beneficial in the long run? I am very interested to hear other people’s perspectives on this labeling issue, so comments would be great.
I have included some links to a pamphlet that the USDA has published for consumer interest on the subject, and also the news clip from the Ontario Farmer.