Billings, Mont. – On Monday at 1:30 p.m. MDT, cattle ranchers and consumers will be focused on the Colorado General Assembly’s House Agriculture, Livestock & Natural Resources Committee as it considers reinstating country of origin information on the beef that Coloradans purchase at retail stores for themselves and their families.
Introduced by State Representative Kimmi Lewis and State Senator Vicki Marble, the Beef Country of Origin Retail Placard bill, HB17-1234, reinstates country of origin information for beef sold in Colorado by requiring a placard be placed next to beef sold in retail stores. The placard must denote “U.S.A. Beef” when the beef is exclusively from animals born, raised and slaughtered in the United States. If the beef is of foreign origin, the placard must state the name of the foreign country or countries from where it originated.
In early 2013 the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) fully implemented the congressional statute requiring mandatory country of origin labels (COOL) on beef sold in retail stores across the nation. The world’s largest beef packers attempted unsuccessfully to repeal mandatory COOL through the U.S. judicial system. After their failure, the packers joined forces with the governments of Canada and Mexico to persuade the Geneva-based World Trade Organization (WTO) to rule against America’s popular COOL law.
“Unsurprisingly, the WTO ruled against COOL and Congress, which is heavily influenced by the multinational beef packing industry, repealed the law for beef in late 2015,” said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard, whose ranching group supports COOL for consumers and producers.
Bullard said when COOL was in effect, U.S. consumers were empowered to choose to buy beef from the U.S. or from any one of the 20 foreign countries from which multinational beef packers source their beef and cattle producers began receiving more competitive prices for their cattle. But, he said, soon after the U.S. House voted to repeal COOL, cattle prices collapsed while retail beef prices that consumers pay continued climbing for another eight months.
Like in Colorado, bills to reinstate COOL information were filed this year in the South Dakota and Wyoming legislatures. However, those bills were defeated at the behest of the multinational beef packers that rely on importing beef to the U.S. and selling it to unsuspecting consumers who are unable to distinguish U.S. beef from foreign beef.
The Colorado bill’s sponsors have circulated a fact sheet that explains how the bill will benefit consumers who eat beef, which includes how it enhances food safety. It also explains how cattle producers who raise the animals from which the beef is derived will benefit from increased competition.