Cargill Moves to USDA's COOL Program

US - Under the USDA’s Country of Origin Labeling program, the “Product of the USA“ label A means the livestock were born, raised and harvested in the US.
calendar icon 22 October 2008
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Cargill has made an announcement that it is beginning to move its beef and pork programs to the “Product of the USA” and “Product of USA, Canada, Mexico” labels. The company expects to have a minimum of 70 percent of product meet the “Product of the USA” labeling standard beginning January 1, 2009.

Under the USDA’s Country of Origin Labeling program, the “Product of the USA” label A means the livestock were born, raised and harvested in the U.S. For multiple countries of origin, Cargill will use label B, “Product of USA, Canada, Mexico” which means the livestock may be born in one country, but sent at an early age to the U.S. to be raised and processed.

Cargill this week began working with many of its largest beef and pork customers and producers to ensure that labeling can be done effectively and efficiently. “We have had great success in working with both cattle producers and retailers to create products that meet consumers’ highest standards,” said Cargill Beef President John Keating. Added Cargill Pork President Dirk Jones, “We are confident that we can meet the needs of producers for an efficient marketing system and the needs of the retailer for top quality pork.”

At the same time, the company reiterated its commitment to serve producers who source top quality cattle and hogs from outside the U.S. “We are deeply committed to North American cattle and hog producers and will work to see that they can achieve the highest possible return for their hard work and investment,” said Keating.

Keating and Jones believe the transition can be accomplished in an efficient manner by working in partnership with producers to ensure that animals with common characteristics are delivered to its processing plants grouped together. “We anticipate that we will need to make some shifts in the way we operate our plants, probably designating different delivery windows for different types of animals,” said Keating. Jones believes the company can manage complexity by working closely with its retail, food service, and export customers.

One of the challenges in implementing the country of origin labeling program is managing the costs associated with segregating products based on characteristics such as quality grades or production practices. For instance, Cargill’s Sterling Silver brand is grouped on a line separate from other animals. The same would be true of the company’s very successful antibiotic free pork line. The company has invested more than $150 million in in-house traceability and segregation technology since 2004. “We did this to create and support brands for our customers and, importantly, to help producers achieve the greatest return on their investment possible,” explained Jones.

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