The Demise of Country of Origin Labeling (COOL)

May 26, 2015

Authored by: Sara Ahmed and Brandon Neuschafer

Digest has been tracking the U.S. Country of Origin Labeling (“COOL”) rules that the WTO decided last year violate international fair trade rules.  It was the third time the WTO found COOL to be unfairly discriminatory.

In response to the threat of retaliation by Canada and Mexico, last week, the House Agricultural Committee voted to repeal a portion of COOL.  Under the bill, beef, pork, and chicken products will likely no longer state where the animals were born, slaughtered, and packaged.  The USDA had previously tried to no avail to revamp the rules upon the WTO’s prior rulings.

The U.S. National Farmers Union’s President, Roger Johnson, has been vocal in his feelings against the move to repeal portions of COOL and stated: “The House Agriculture Committee has succumbed to lobbying and scare tactics from foreign governments and multinational meatpackers and inserted itself prematurely into the WTO process by voting for a bill to repeal COOL.”  The concern is that US consumers will be blocked from accessing information about their meat products, which seems all the more on the mind of the NFU since China seeks to export its chickens to the U.S.  Without COOL, American sellers will be placed at a perceived disadvantage because consumers will not know (and therefore will not be able to make purchasing decisions based on) if meat comes from within the country or abroad.

As always, stay tuned to Digest for updates on what may (or may not) be left of COOL and how it can affect your company and the products you see in markets.