After the World Trade Organization rulings regarding Canada and Mexico’s challenges of U.S. country-of-original labeling (COOL) were issued, the verdict on the mandatory law was sealed. However, the death of COOL has been long and prolonged.
With all the discussion that COOL caused within the industry when it was implemented, it is striking how little discussion there is about it today as it slowly withers on the vine. A recent study completed by Kansas State University and Oklahoma State University probably explains it best.
In the study, consumers were asked to rate 11 various traits. Country of origin ranked 9th for hamburger and 11th for steak. The bottom line is that the consumer doesn’t care and producers are not benefitting.
Politicians have shown little resolve on the issue, and if we are honest with ourselves, we have to admit that the whole discussion never had that much to do with mandatory COOL. It was about much deeper political issues and fissures that still largely exist within the industry. The opponents of COOL see its demise as inevitable and thus have little incentive, while the proponents don’t seem to exhibit much fervor in fighting to retain COOL.
So the industry has found itself in a tricky situation. Nobody wants to waste a lot of political capital or engagement in playing a role in the end game. There seems to be a growing sentiment that there’s no incentive or urgency to act until we see massive retaliation. That attitude presents substantial risk to the industry.
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The question today is not if the plug is going to be pulled on COOL but when. The question we should be asking is how the industry spent so much time on an issue that had so little impact – either positively or negatively – on the bottom line of producers.
The opinions of Troy Marshall are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com and the Penton Agriculture Group.
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