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Ranchers Want to Restore 'Truth in Labeling' for Meat Origins

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Montana ranchers say they've taken a hit because the United States lacks accurate country-of-origin labeling. (Northern Plains Resource Council)
Montana ranchers say they've taken a hit because the United States lacks accurate country-of-origin labeling. (Northern Plains Resource Council)
 By Eric Tegethoff - Producer, Contact
February 16, 2021

HELENA, Mont. -- Ranchers want to bring truth-in-labeling back for beef and pork in Montana.

A proposal in the Montana Legislature would ask retailers to put up signs in front of beef and pork that clarifies the product was born, raised and processed in the United States.

Otherwise, the meat would be described as imported or origin unlabeled.

Imported meat currently can use "Product of the USA" labeling even if it's repackaged here.

John Bailey, a member of the grassroots agriculture group Northern Plains Resource Council and a rancher in southeastern Montana, urged the change to help consumers.

"The vast majority of people tell us that they want to know where their food comes from," Bailey explained. "And I think that a 'COOL' bill, a country-of-origin labeling bill, is the way to start doing that."

Congress repealed the country-of-origin requirement in 2015. The World Trade Organization ruled it violated the North American Free Trade Agreement in 2011.

Imports from countries such as Brazil have driven the cost of beef down in the last few years.

Bailey noted that has affected Montana ranchers.

"After COOL was repealed, our prices dropped by about $1 a pound," Bailey recounted. "Well, that's $600 an animal. To the average rancher, that's a pretty significant hit."

Bailey also pointed out COVID-19 has revealed the importance of local food sources.

"The pandemic has brought attention to the fact that we need to have a safe, reliable, domestic source of meat, and right now we don't," Bailey asserted.

The legislation, House Bill 324, had a hearing in the House Agriculture Committee last week.

Disclosure: Northern Plains Resource Council contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Energy Policy, and Rural/Farming. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
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