A Kansas State University agricultural economist says a law that once required mandatory reporting of the origin of meat sold in grocery stores likely did not have an impact on consumers’ demand for those products.
Glynn Tonsor has completed an analysis of meat demand before, during and after the U.S. Department of Agriculture had implemented mandatory country of origin labeling for meat products.
Known as MCOOL, the law was in place in the United States from 2009 through 2015, and required food labels in grocery stores to include a statement indicating where the animal was raised before it was harvested for a meat product.
Essentially, said Tonsor, “if beef and pork products went through the grocery store, then they had to be labeled. With that (labeling) comes the cost of compliance, which goes into a benefit-cost assessment, and an attempt to quantify the benefit. So what we tried to determine is the impact on the demand for meat of that law, and ultimately whether there was a positive benefit-cost ratio.
“There’s no evidence of a positive demand development following implementation of the law,” Tonsor said. “So if you don’t have evidence of a benefit, and you do have evidence of a cost, that’s not a desirable benefit-cost ratio,” which led to the law being repealed in late 2015.
Four years later, Tonsor said there is “no reason to think” that repeal of MCOOL would provide a measurable boost to the demand for meat products. “One of the estimates we have reported looks that way, but there are a lot of things that change. Beef demand or pork demand could be better after MCOOL, and have nothing to do with MCOOL being repealed.”
Recent drivers in meat demand are more likely due to consumers’ higher preference for protein diets, and the population mix from 10 years ago has changed, Tonsor said.
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