From the AP Wire this morning:
(this is just an excerpt, follow the link to read the whole thing)
House votes to postpone meat labels
By LIBBY QUAID
Associated Press Writer
Labels telling grocery shoppers where their meat comes from are viewed as a godsend by cattle ranchers and consumers but a nightmare for supermarkets and meatpackers. Packers and retailers won the argument Wednesday as the House voted to block the federal government from requiring country-of-origin labels for meat.
The labels "would present a nightmare" of record-keeping and legal costs that consumers would have to bear, said Rep. Henry Bonilla, R-Texas, who voted against the labeling.
The industry estimates it could cost as much as $4 billion in the first year.
Rep. Bob Goodlatte, the House Agriculture Committee chairman, said the labels would do the opposite of what was intended, adding $10 per head of cattle to ranchers' costs.
"It will make our producers less competitive with foreign meat producers, not more competitive," said Goodlatte, R-Va.
First off, how is it that this could make US meat products less competitive?! I'm an Ag major, I've studied this stuff. The agricultural industries in the US are the best in the world, and produce the safest product. So how is knowing that a meat product came from the US going to make US consumers less likely to purchase it?
For example: Say you go to two fast food chains that are labelling the country of origin for the hamburgers they sell. One sells only US beef, and the other only purchases beef from South America. If you have a preference, which one are you going to pick?
This isn't as far-fetched as you think, Argentina has a big beef industry that would rival that of the US if it were not for the lack of realiable infrastructure in Argentina.
Another example: If you're like me and enjoy fried (or grilled) catfish, would you not want to know if the restaurants you frequent are actually serving catfish from the US or "catfish" from Asia (they raise a different species over there). This is an issue as well, as there have been firms caught trying to label the Asian product as "fresh farm-raised" and trying to imply that it was of US origin.
As it stands now, consumers in the US for the most part don't know where their meat products are coming from. So what happens the next time there is a major disease outbreak, like BSE/Mad Cow, in another country and consumers want to avoid meat products from that country?
We are faced with the fact that for the most part we do not know where the meat we buy in the store or at restaurants comes from because the meat packing industry does not want to deal with the inconvenience.