The Washington state meat industry is split on Congress’ action to drop a meat-labeling law under international pressure.
Congress has repealed a labeling law that required retailers to include the animal’s country of origin on packages of red meat, as reported by The Associated Press.
The action received a mixed reaction from Northwest producers, meat processors and purveyors.
Jack Field, the executive vice president of the Washington Cattleman’s Association, cheered the ruling. He said it would allow meat producers to be more efficient, because they wouldn’t have to separate meat from different countries in storage. He said meat labeling should be a voluntary practice.
“The most effective means of labeling is to let the market drive it if the consumer is requesting labels,” Field said.
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Field said he was relieved by the decision, because tariffs from Canada or Mexico would no longer be a threat to the industry.
Jamie Henneman, a spokeswoman for the Cattle Producers of Washington, said her organization was disappointed to see labeling requirements repealed. She said labels protect the value of Washington ranchers’ products.
“This is a win if you are a multinational meat corporation and you don’t care about domestic interests,” she said. “This is a loss on all levels for the beef producers of the U.S. The value of our product is letting you know who raised it and where it was raised.”
Henneman said meat processors will be able to more efficiently import beef internationally.
“Essentially, you’re going to be able to put the beef from wherever in a grinder and say it’s a good, wholesome meat product,” she said.
Trudy Bialic, the director of public affairs for PCC Natural Markets, said Congress’ meat-labeling change was “unfortunate” but that PCC would not be impacted.
“We will continue to label our meat voluntarily with origin. We know where everything comes from,” she said.
She said PCC believes meat should “be born, raised and slaughtered in the U.S.
“As there’s growing awareness of cruelty that does exist in the livestock industry, consumers have been shifting toward the kinds of meats we specialize in.”
Rain Shadow Meats owner Russell Flint said he did not expect the change to affect his restaurant and specialty butchery but said he was saddened by the decision.
“To me it shows the state of food in this country. There’s no provenance,” Flint said. “I just like to know where my food comes from. I like to support local farmers. We live in a unique and incredible area and we should be eating stuff from our area.”