Canada is unhappy with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) final ruling on Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) which requires meat labels to specify the country or countries where the animal was born, raised and slaughtered. For months, Canadian Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz has warned that Canada will take retaliatory actions if the measure, which it considers discriminatory, is passed.
Both Canada and Mexico told the World Trade Organization (WTO) that COOL labeling, as it was first enacted in the U.S. in 2008, presented a barrier to trade. The WTO maintained that the U.S. had the right to require COOL, but the labels didn’t provide enough useful information to consumers to justify the additional cost it created for imported meat. Since that time, the U.S. has worked to change the labels so that they will provide better information to consumers. Now, rather than a label that reads “mixed origin,” cuts of meat sold in the U.S. might read “born and raised in Canada, slaughtered in the U.S.”
About 90 percent of Americans favor such consumer information, according to a recent poll. But the measure isn’t sitting well with Canada. In a joint statement released in reaction to the ruling May 23, Gerry Ritz and Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway Ed Fast said Canada was “extremely disappointed” with the ruling and does not feel that it brings the U.S. into compliance with its WTO obligations. “These changes will increase discrimination against Canadian cattle and hogs and increase damages to industry on both sides of the border. Canada will consider all options at its disposal, including, if necessary, the use of retaliatory measures.”