Labeling meat can help stabilize markets


Commentary, Norfolk Daily News (NE)

Feb 7, 2020


Nebraska feeds and markets the best beef cattle in the world. The quality is known from Omaha to Japan.


And thanks to farmers and ranchers in the Cornhusker State and the Midwest — especially at a time when some nations are battling animal diseases — it makes sense to let consumers know where their steak or burger is coming from.


Country Of Origin Labeling (COOL) ensures just that. Americans should be able to know the meat they purchase at the grocery store is raised in the U.S. and safe.


In other parts of the grocery store like the produce section, vegetables and fruits are labeled for their origin. Clothing is labeled by the country that manufactures it. Shouldn’t meat be as well?


Joe Pongratz of O’Neill, a Holt County farmer and a R-CALF USA member, supports COOL. He noted that cattle prices were at an all-time high in 2015.


“After COOL was removed, cattle prices have never recovered and farmers and ranchers continue to struggle,” he told the Daily News.


“We raise quality beef in the United States and have no health issues in our cattle herds,” Pongratz said. “So we all need to think about the BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) cases in Canada and tuberculosis and hoof and mouth disease in South America. We don’t want that here.”


As many farmers and ranchers have pointed out, U.S. packing plants are not necessarily owned by U.S. business interests. The packers can use the plants as a way import meat from other countries, repackage the product here in the United States mixing it with U.S. beef — and call it “Made in the USA.”


The product then can be priced lower and sold as homegrown beef. And consumers know no difference because it is sold in the meat counter with U.S. beef without any markings.


That’s why COOL should be brought back. Americans should be able to tell...