Shoes, electronics and many other products American consumers buy regularly are labeled with their country of origin. Local beef producers, retailers and government officials believe beef should be labeled the same way for various reasons.
Madison County Commissioner Dave Schulz moved to prepare a letter of support to the Montana Association of Counties’ agriculture committee supporting the Montana Stockgrowers’ efforts in Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) at the commissioners’ Nov. 12 meeting. The other two commissioners agreed.
“Country of Origin Labeling for beef is twofold,” Schulz said. “It is a safety protection for consumers and also some marketing so people know exactly what they are getting.”
Schulz said he believes COOL can help mitigate any issues that arise if there is bad beef affecting the public. He said it would make it easier to trace the beef’s origin and figure out what created the problem.
One hundred percent American meat is the goal at Deemo’s Meats in Ennis. Owner Chris Di’Michele said COOL is a helpful tool for him and consumers.
“I wish more meat here could say Montana on it,” Di’Michele said. “I live here and I choose to support producers here.”
There are certain local and national groups who are putting forth a concerted effort to negate COOL, according to Schulz. Three of the more local groups are run out of Billings-Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stock-growers of America and the Western Organization of Resource Councils.
The North American Meat Association claims that COOL imposes burdens on its industry with little to no benefit. The American Meat Institute also weighed in. It argued that beef from Canada and Mexico is no different than U.S. beef. The institute said it worried meat from other countries would be discriminated against because of COOL.
“It seems to be very controversial and I read a lot about it,” Twin Bridges beef producer Rick Sandru said of COOL.
Sandru said he believes consumers should have the right to know where their meat comes from just like everything else they buy. He added that he does not think COOL will be a detriment to trade between the United States and other countries. Sandru said he does not believe or buy into the idea that “beef’s beef.” Schulz said he agreed, and the two noted that they and possibly other consumers can tell the difference between beef from different countries and even different parts of the United States. Sandru said he had some concern too because other countries do not have the same protocol as the U.S.
“We want to support local producers and protect people’s health,” Schulz said.