What is Country of Origin Labeling?

Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) is a labeling law that requires most grocery stores to inform customers of the origins of their food. The law was first passed in 2002 and by 2014 it required origin labels on beef, pork, lamb, goat, chicken and venison, fish and shellfish, fruits and vegetables; peanuts, pecans, and macadamia nuts; and ginseng.  (For more details, go to https://www.ams.usda.gov/rules-regulations/cool or View USDA’s COOL Brochure)

What Happened to COOL?

Multinational corporations that import ever-increasing volumes of food from around the world do not want consumers to know from what country the food is sourced. This is because these corporations make windfall profits from sourcing cheaper food from less developed countries and selling that food to unsuspecting U.S. consumers who erroneously believe a U.S. inspection sticker means the food was produced in the United States.

Multinational meatpackers are among the most powerful food importers and they filed a lawsuit in 2013 to repeal COOL for beef and pork.  Our U.S. judicial system upheld the COOL law affirming that it complied with the U.S. Constitution and U.S. statutes. The courts also found that COOL enabled consumers to choose food produced under the U.S. food safety system and support U.S. farmers and ranchers by purchasing U.S. products.

After losing their lawsuit against COOL in the U.S. court system, the multinational meatpackers redoubled their efforts to support a complaint that Mexico and Canada filed against COOL at the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva, Switzerland. With the meatpackers help, a Mexican national named Ricardo Ramírez-Hernández led a three-member panel of the WTO that ruled the U.S. must change or repeal its COOL law as it applied to beef and pork.

Despite the blatant conflict of interest created by a Mexican national ruling on a complaint his own country filed against the United States, Congress nevertheless repealed COOL for beef and pork in late 2015.

Currently, while consumers are still afforded the right to know where their chicken, lamb, goat, venison, fish, shellfish, fruits and vegetables and certain nuts and ginseng is produced, Congress saw fit to deprive all consumers of information disclosing the origins of their beef and pork.  The U.S. is now importing beef from about 20 countries, including Nicaragua, Honduras, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Canada and Costa Rico, to name a few.

What is #COOLin100?

COOLin100 is R-CALF USA’s new campaign to reinstate mandatory COOL for beef and pork during the first 100 days of President Trump’s Administration. President Trump announced he would begin putting America first and he wanted Americans to follow two rules:  Buy American and Hire American. Well, Americans simply cannot choose to buy American beef – beef from animals that are exclusively born, raised and harvested in the United States – unless Congress and the President reinstate COOL for beef. So, COOLin100 will utilize social media, news media, consumer call-ins, lobbying trips and much more to create sufficient awareness for the need to reinstate COOL for beef and pork that the new Congress and new President will do so within 100 days.

Importantly, the only reason COOL for beef and pork was repealed was because the past Administration and Congress failed to defend America’s sovereign right to inform its consumers about the origins of their food.  The new Administration and new Congress can quickly correct this serous error.  COOLin100 will persuade them to do so.

COOL Timeline

2002:  Congress passes COOL.

2004:  The leadership in Congress kowtows to anti-COOL meatpackers and delays the implementation of COOL until 2009.

2009:  The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) finally implements COOL but includes a loophole that allows meatpackers to label USA beef as if it were a product of multiple countries, using the erroneous label “Product of Canada, Mexico, and the U.S.”

2013:  The USDA finally closes the 2009 loophole by requiring beef to be labeled according to where the animal was born, raised and harvested. This is the first time COOL was properly implemented for beef.

2014: The U.S. Court of Appeals upholds the COOL law in the face of a lawsuit filed by multinational meatpackers and their allied producer groups.

2015:  Led by a Mexican national, the World Trade Organization announces that Mexico and Canada have won their complaint against the U.S. COOL law and it directs the U.S. to change or repeal COOL for beef and pork.

2015:  Without making any effort to preserve COOL through normal and customary diplomatic channels, Congress votes to repeal COOL for beef and pork and the repeal is signed by the president.

2017:  R-CALF USA cattle producers and consumers will work to reinstate COOL for beef and pork.

Click here for a more comprehensive Timeline.

What can I do to help?

Share this message: We need mandatory COOL reinstated on our beef and pork in the first 100 days of President Trump’s Administration.

1. Share this message with the White House.

2. Tweet President Trump (@realDonaldTrump) the above message. #COOLin100 #BuyAmerican

3. Donate to the cause. Text COOL 10 to 4066305536 to donate $10 to support COOL; or replace the 10 with any dollar amount you wish to give. Donate through our website. Or mail-in your contribution to R-CALF USA COOL PO Box 30715 Billings, MT 59107.

For more information visit https://www.r-calfusa.com/country-of-origin-labeling/

Here some more specific information on COOL Directly from USDA:

Who is exempt from COOL?

Hotels, restaurants, bars, taverns, delicatessens, salad bars, farmers markets, or other similar institutions that provide ready-to-eat foods are EXEMPT from the COOL requirements.
(From USDA, AMS Consumer Brochure)

What are COOL covered commodities?

A covered commodity is one that must have COOL information at the point of sale. These include: fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables; wild & farm-raised fish and shellfish; muscle cut and ground chicken, lamb, and goat meat; raw peanuts, pecans, and macadamia nuts; and ginseng.

Foods such as beef, pork, turkey, milk, cheese, wheat, and rice are not subject to COOL requirements. Covered commodities that are required to be labeled at retail with country of origin are specifically stated in the law and regulation. If the commodity is not included in the regulation, it is not subject to COOL. Commodities not covered by COOL may be subject to other laws administered by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Food & Drug Administration, or USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.
(From USDA, AMS Consumer Brochure)

Labeling Requirements

Muscle Cuts of Meat: Chicken, Lamb, & Goat

The Omnibus Spending Act of 2016 amended the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 by repealing mandatory COOL requirements for beef and pork muscle cuts,ground beef, and ground pork. Requirements for chicken, lamb,and goat did not change.

For U.S. origin muscle cut chicken, lamb, and goat products, the label must state,“Born/Hatched, Raised, and Slaughtered/Harvested in the U.S.”

Meat derived from animals where production steps occurred in multiple countries including the U.S., must be labeled with production steps at the point of sale. The label may state, “Born in Country X,

Raised and Harvested in the U.S.” or “Born and Raised in Country X, Harvested in the U.S.”

Country of Origin declarations for imported meat is determined by U.S. Customs and Border Protectection. All production steps occur outside of the U.S. and therefore are not required at the retail point of sale. The label may state,“Product of Country X.”Ground Meat: Chicken, Goat, &

Lamb COOL requirements for ground meat products must list all possible countries included or that may be reasonably included. If a raw material from a specific origin is in a processor’s inventory within the past 60 days, that country is a possible country of origin and must be listed as an origin on the label.
(From USDA, AMS Consumer Brochure)