Country of Origin Labeling, or C.O.O.L., is a new system that requires labels on meat products sold in the United States to contain detailed information about where the products came from. The U.S.D.A. began to enforce the new country of origin labels on fresh meat (beef, pork and lamb) in order to give better information to consumers about the food they’re eating. The U.S.D.A. recently amended C.O.O.L. to include even more details as to where the cow was born, raised and slaughtered. For instance, a steer that was born in Mexico but raised and slaughtered in America would state “Born in Mexico, raised and slaughtered in U.S.A.” Willy Street Co-op believes the U.S.D.A. has made a step in the right direction and we are pleased to report that the U.S.D.A. is looking to expand C.O.O.L. to include other products such as fresh fruits, nuts and vegetables.
It is important to note that the American Meat Institute and its counterparts in Canada and Mexico are opposed to these new laws designed to better inform the consumer about where their meat comes from. These groups argue that the new law is more hassle than it’s worth and will only serve to confuse the consumer while driving up the price of meat. This stance not only discredits the modern consumer’s demand for more information and transparency, but it also allows continued avenues for misrepresenting the conditions that cause the price of fresh meat to fluctuate, such as weather related forces (drought, flooding), fuel/feed prices, and overall demand.
The new C.O.O.L. labels currently apply specifically to fresh meat cuts and are exempt to “processed” meats that have been combined with another ingredient or are cooked, roasted, smoked or cured (sausages, hams, bacon). This opens a possible loophole for fresh cuts that have a marinade or solution packed with them, but we currently do not sell those types of products.
Starting this September, our Owners will begin to see country of origin labeling on our fresh meat products. Our selection of fresh meat is overwhelmingly local and 100% U.S. born and raised. Furthermore, we are able to inform Owners as to which farm it came from and what type of diet it was raised on. Our standard of transparency in labeling at Willy Street Co-op is such that when we make “processed” meats like fresh bratwurst that is 99.5% pork from 30 miles away, we will still classify it as “essentially local” due to that last little bit being spices which are not local (but are the same ones Owners can find in our bulk aisle).