October 31, 2008
October 31, 2008 - You may have noticed country-of-origin labels (COOL) on the meat you purchased since the labeling law went into effect on Sept. 30. But, what do these labels really mean?
The label tells you the country or countries where an animal may have been born, raised and processed. Sometimes the label will identify only a single country, and sometimes it may list multiple countries. The labels are required on single-ingredient, unprocessed meat products, such as ground beef, roasts, chops and other cuts sold in retail food stores. Labels are not required on meat products that are processed, such as bacon, cured ham or corned beef, or include more than one ingredient. Meat products sold at restaurants are not subject to COOL.
Four categories of labels will appear on meat products.
United States Origin - Only meat from livestock that are born, raised and processed in the United States may say "Product of the U.S."
Multiple Countries of Origin - In some cases, livestock may be born in one country but sent to another country to be raised and processed. In other cases, livestock may be born and raised in one country but exported for processing to another country. Under this broad category, labels may read, "Product of the U.S., Canada and Mexico" or "Product of the U.S. and Canada" or "Product of the U.S. and Mexico."
Imported for Direct Processing - If livestock are brought directly into the U.S. for processing and the livestock spend less than 14 days in this country, meat from these livestock may read, "Product of Canada and the U.S." When livestock are imported into the United States for direct processing, the exporting country will be listed first on the label.
Imported, Finished Product - Some meat is imported into the United States processed and ready for sale to the consumer. Examples include lamb from New Zealand and Australia, Danish hams and Italian salamis. These products must say "Product of New Zealand" or "Product of Denmark," for example.