Legislature weighs merits of beef labeling proposal


Janelle Atyeo, Tri-State Neighbor

Feb 14, 2017


Labeling meat with the country where the animal was born, raised and slaughtered fell out of favor when neighboring countries threatened to impost strict tariffs on U.S. goods, but South Dakota is looking to implement its own labeling rules for beef.


Senate Bill 135 would require grocery stores to note the country of origin on packaged beef when the information is available.


“Consumers want to know where their food comes from,” said Silvia Christen, executive director of the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association. “Anytime somebody buys a USA steak, it benefits our producers.”


Others say there’s not an adequate system in place to support a requirement for country of origin labeling, or COOL. Jodie Anderson, executive director of the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association, said the law is unenforceable. There’s no mandatory program tracking cattle from the time they’re born through the time they go to the processing plant.


“Truthfully, how can you have a meaningful COOL without a traceability program?” Anderson asked.


She said she also worries what labeling requirements in South Dakota would mean for meat coming in from other states that have no COOL law.


In 2015, Congress repealed labeling requirements for beef and pork. This came after Mexico and Canada were approved to impose tariffs amounting to $1.1 billion on U.S. products.


There were issues with the way cattle were being segregated in order to make labeling possible, according to South Dakota Farmers Union, one of the proponents of the state COOL law. The state law would avoid those issues by placing the labeling requirement on the grocery store rather than the packing plant.


As long as the grocer knows where the meat is from, it must be labeled, according to the bill. If the information is not available, the bill requires grocers to label the meet with a note that the country of origin is unknown.


Christen said the stockgrowers group has heard from many grocers that the boxed beef they buy comes with country of origin information, and many stores already are labeling their meat...