Thanks to Congress, we'll have no way of knowing where our meat comes from
Like a lot of people in recent years, I've been trying to focus on local, sustainable eating.
That's just one of the reasons I'm so concerned about Congress voting to repeal mandatory country of origin labeling, or COOL, for meat in the new budget that just passed. Basically, without the law, your meat could come from anywhere in the world — China, Ireland, Peru — and they don't have to tell you.
Though all meat imported to the U.S. is inspected by the USDA to make sure it's safe to eat, other countries have different laws pertaining to every element of meat production, from an animal's birth to butchery.
This change in meat labeling flies in the face of what consumers want. A 2013 poll showed that 90 percent of Americans surveyed were in favor of COOL and want to know where their meat is coming from.
So why was COOL repealed at all? Apparently Mexico and Canada had argued to the World Trade Organization that our labeling system was "discriminatory," and were threatening to impose $1 billion or more in tariffs on goods made in the U.S. if we didn't change the law. The World Trade Organization agreed with their position and approved their tariffs. Fearing the economic consequences of the tariffs, Congress then passed the new budget that had the appeal of COOL tacked on to it.
Like, is anyone else perpetually confused by/enraged at Congress, no matter which party is in power?
This new lack of labeling concerns me because I already feel bad about purchasing food that's from the other side of the country, never mind the other side of the world. Not labeling imported meat makes it harder for me to make the more sustainable choice.
I'm also concerned about issues like the recent outbreak of mad cow disease in Brazil and the destruction of the rainforest there from the beef industry. Without the country of origin labels, it's harder to make informed choices about what we eat.
So what can we do?
Hopefully meat produced in the U.S. will still be labeled with pride as such, even though it's not mandatory. So definitely look for "raised in the U.S." or similar language on labels.
You could also buy meat directly from farmers, from a farmers market or from a butcher you trust who sources locally.
Otherwise, tofu's starting to sound pretty good right about now, am I right?