US Country of Origin Meat Labelling Hurting Canada’s Hog Sector
By Amanda Brodhagen, Farms.com
The controversial US country-of-origin meat labeling provisions - also known as COOL, has been hurting Canada’s hog industry. According to a new report, the US labelling rules are costing Canada’s hog and pork sector $2 billion. The report could provide evidence for retaliation if Washington doesn’t change its rules.
The World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled last month that the US must work to be in compliance with the WTO guidelines, no later than May 23, 2013. Despite the ruling, there hasn’t been any sign that the US is moving to remove these restrictions. The labeling program has led to a significant reduction in US imports of Canadian cattle and pigs.
The Canadian Pork Council (CPC) released a report on Monday outlining the estimated damage that COOl labelling restrictions are having on Canada’s hog industry. The organization is calling on Ottawa to put pressure on the US by imposing retaliatory tariffs on imports from the US if changes are not met within the WTO deadline.
"COOL continues to cost hog and cattle producers tens of millions of dollars every month and must be dealt with sooner rather than later," said Jean-Guy Vincent, a Quebec hog farmer and chairman of the Pork Council.
The CPC report was written by economist Ron Gietz, who calculated that the labelling rules have cost Canadian hog farmers roughly $2 billion in lost export profits. This is in addition to the $442 million in reduced pork shipments.
While Ottawa has been critical about COOL, Minister of Agriculture Gerry Ritz says that it’s too early to assume that the US won’t meet the WTO deadline.
"We expect that the U.S. will bring itself into compliance with its WTO obligations by May 23," Ritz said in an emailed statement to Reuters. "It is premature to speculate on retaliatory measures at this time."
The report doesn’t address the Canadian cattle sector. Advocates for COOl say that the program offers US consumers valuable information about the origin of their food. The US labelling law requires grocery providers to label cuts of beef, pork, lamb, and chicken with the origin of the meat.