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Mandatory labeling not so cool

Meat New Zealand has found an unlikely ally in its opposition to the mandatory country of origin labeling (MCOOL), scheduled to be brought in under the US Farm Bill in September 2004.

Speaking at the Meat New Zealand hosted- Five Nations Beef Conference (Australia, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand and USA) in Queenstown this past weekend, Wythe Wyllie of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), said he did not support mandatory labeling either. "Hopefully commonsense will prevail sometime soon, but I can’t promise you anything," he said.

Wyllie said intense patriotism led to the inclusion of MCOOL in the Farm Bill. "You have to put MCOOL into perspective, as it was made in the heat of the aftermath of September 11."

Chairman Jeff Grant said Meat New Zealand is opposed to mandatory country of origin labeling. "I think it is something that all of us here (at the Five Nations Beef Conference) are strongly opposed to."

Grant said beef should be marked for its quality rather than where it came from. "It essentially implies that imported beef is of lower quality or safety standard than domestic beef. Of course this is not the case, but it was pleasing to see that the Americans also see MCOOL as unnecessary."

The NCBA has now directed its Washington staff to urge the USDA to hold listening sessions to increase the awareness of MCOOL among US producers.

Also, the NCBA will work to get the US Congress to hold hearings about the implications of MCOOL and is working to increase the awareness among producers of exactly what MCOOL will mean to them.

Further cooperation between some of the Five Nations was also suggested in Queenstown, with combined generic beef promotion a possibility.

Grant said that in 2002 Meat New Zealand, Australia and the United States successfully combined in a 'Beef Alliance' generic beef promotion in Taiwan. "Our aims are the same, we want to increase beef consumption throughout the world. The Taiwanese are not traditionally big beef eaters, so the Beef Alliance campaign sought to change that with some success."

Neil Jahnke of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association said they would be happy to be involved in future combined promotions. "I don’t see the US, Australia or New Zealand as our competition," he said. "I see pork as a competitor."

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