March 5, 2007


Canada's cattle and hog industries prepare to make case against labelling



Canada's cattle and hog industries say they are preparing to again step up their case against the US government's country of origin labelling, or COOL, rules.


The proposed rules would require mandatory country-of-origin labelling on beef, lamb, pork, fish, agricultural commodities and peanuts. If passed, beef from cattle not born, raised and slaughtered in the US, for example, would have to be labelled with the country of its origin.


"Country of Origin Labelling in retail is a form of interruptive access," said Ted Haney, president of the Canadian Beef Export Federation, or CBEF. "It's not designed for health, it's not designed for food safety ... it is designed solely to force identification of non-US products to US consumers."


The Canadian Pork Council made submissions to the US Department of Agriculture earlier this week as the agency opened a comment period for COOL, said Martin Rice, the organisation's executive director.


"We essentially pointed out that while COOL may work for something like fish and shellfish, the same cannot be said about the cattle and hog sector," Rice said. "You have to remember it's much simpler to track fish and shellfish, given that there are no feedlots involved, there are no auction yards where feeder fish come and go. There is no finishing of the animal, etc..."


Such rules, if adopted, would have serious ramifications on the amount of beef and cattle Canada exports to the US, according to industry officials. The amendment has had trouble passing, and has twice been delayed from implementation.


Some in the US industry have pushed for the rules because they say it would help from a marketing perspective given that the rules would be designed to underscore increased safety measures. Others in the US industry say they are against it because of, among other things, the costs of implementation.