ShapeShapeauthorShapechevroncrossShapeShapeShapeGrouphamburgerhomeGroupmagnifyShapeShapeShaperssShape

NFU Comments on Tyson's COOL Labeling Measure

by 5m Editor
16 October 2008, at 8:43am

WASHINGTON - U.S. meat company Tyson Foods Inc said this week that it plans to tighten its country of origin labeling (COOL) practices starting early next year to identify more of its beef and pork products as sourced exclusively from the United States.

Reuters reports that the leading U.S. beef and No. 2 pork producer had initially planned on categorizing its beef and pork cuts with a looser and less costly multiple country of origin label, but abandoned that plan after receiving feedback from government officials and some industry groups.

"If we do not take measures to more fully meet the desires of COOL advocates and many lawmakers, and label a large percentage of retail, fresh meat cuts as a product of the U.S., it is likely some of the flexibility in the current regulations will be eliminated," James Lochner, senior group vice president at Tyson Fresh Meats, said in a letter to customers.

It aims to label about 90 percent of the rest of its beef and pork cuts as U.S.-sourced by the middle of next year while the remainder will be marked with multiple country of origin or imported labels.


*
"If we do not take measures to more fully meet the desires of COOL advocates and many lawmakers, and label a large percentage of retail, fresh meat cuts as a product of the U.S., it is likely some of the flexibility in the current regulations will be eliminated."
James Lochner, senior group vice president at Tyson Fresh Meats

Under COOL rules, livestock producers must keep detailed records about the source of their animals. Also, meat packers and processors must provide country of origin information to retailers.

Supporters argue that consumers increasingly want to know where their food comes from and that COOL can help isolate food safety issues like mad cow disease. Opponents counter that implementation costs are too high and that existing food supply safeguards are sufficient.

Tyson said the changes will result in higher production costs and that those costs would ultimately be passed on via higher finished product prices or through lower livestock prices.

NFU's response to this new measure

The following is a statement issued by National Farmers Union (NFU) President, Tom Buis, after receiving a copy of letters sent to interested parties.

He said that the Tyson letters indicate that they plan to meet the intent of mandatory country-of-origin labeling, or COOL, by labeling the majority of their beef and pork products as USA. He said, "In letters to cattle and hog producers, along with retail customers, Tyson’s recognizes that around 90 percent of all fresh retail beef and pork cuts meet the definition of USA and would qualify for the label as directed in the 2008 Farm Bill. This is the right move to make and I was pleased to receive a copy of these letters."

Mr Buis also said that the whole intent and purpose of COOL is to provide American consumers with the knowledge of their food’s origin. "From the farmer and rancher perspective, we are proud of the food produced in the United States and we want consumers to be able to differentiate our high quality products in the grocery store. Despite the clear language in the 2008 Farm Bill, we learned just a few weeks ago that meat packers had intended to circumvent the law and label everything with a US-Canada-Mexico, or NAFTA, label. That was never part of the farm bill agreement."

“National Farmers Union has been a long-time advocate for COOL, investing significant time and effort into the program and it is gratifying that we are now working together to move the law forward as intended. I commend Tyson Meats for their willingness to step forward and take the lead. It is my hope other meat packers will follow their lead," Mr Buis said.

5m Editor