Mexico and Canada, our usually amicable neighbors, are starting to get a little irritated with the U.S. and our food safety policies.
It turns out that neither country wants labels on meat that inform U.S. consumers where the animal was born, raised and eventually slaughtered. Both claim that such a practice discriminates against livestock imported from other countries to the United States.
Mexico and Canada’s “Beef” with the U.S.
In 2009, the U.S. required all retail food outlets to attach labels to their meat products (for example “Born in Canada, raised in Canada and slaughtered in the U.S.”) so consumers have more knowledge about the safety and origin of food products.
According Canada, adhering to labeling laws has not only added unnecessary expenses but has also reduced livestock exports, forcing some farmers out of the agricultural business and costing the Canadian pork and beef industry over $1 billion annually.
Mexico is also preparing trade sanctions against the U.S. as a result of our labeling laws.
Consumer Rights and Meat-Labeling Laws
The Republican-dominated Congress has indicated they may repeal labeling laws, but Democrats and consumer groups assert these laws offer essential information to consumers.
The World Trade Organization says that our labels discriminate against imported livestock.
Statistics show that 90 percent of U.S. consumers support meat-labeling laws.
Consequences for U.S. Producers
If they receive authorization for trade sanctions from the World Trade Organization, Canada and Mexico intend to retaliate against the U.S. Canada already has a list of U.S. commodities they plan to target, which includes cereal, wine, ketchup and chocolate.
Michael Conaway, chair of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture, wants to expedite a resolution that would prevent the beginning of a prolonged trade war with the two countries. Alternatively, Democrat Collin Peterson, also on the Committee of Agriculture, plans to oppose any effort to repeal the existing labeling laws.
Anxiety about the future of this dispute has already lowered lean hog and cattle futures. Fearful of the impending repercussions, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and U.S. Pork Producers Association want Congress to enact legislative action now, stating that if Mexico and Canada place tariffs on U.S. products, U.S. exports and jobs will suffer severe consequences. However, other groups that speak for the livestock industries, such as R-CALF USA, want Congress to stand firm.
What Do You Think?
Do you think that U.S. consumers have a right to know where their meat comes from, or should we stop labeling in order to prevent Canada and Mexico from boycotting our goods? Is this any different from labeling T-shirts as “Made in China” or cameras as “Made in Japan,” or is it essentially the same thing?