The Sept. 11 ruling by a U.S. district court judge refusing to stop the government from requiring more specific country-of-origin labeling (COOL) for meat products sold in stores reignites the debate about benefits vs. costs of this mandatory policy.

This policy could mean that more information will be available for meat consumers to make purchasing decisions, but it also could lead to economic loss for the U.S. meat industry and its trading partners, remarks Glynn Tonsor, associate professor of agricultural economics at Kansas State University.

COOL has been in limbo since its mandatory implementation in 2009, he explains. The policy requires that most fresh foods, including meat, indicate the country or countries where the product was born, grown, raised and slaughtered on the product’s label.

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Not long after the mandatory implementation, Canada and Mexico approached the World Trade Organization (WTO) to challenge COOL, as the countries believed the law hindered trade with the United States and violated the North American Free Trade Agreement. The WTO sided with Canada and Mexico, which led to the United States revising its COOL policy last May.

Tonsor studied consumer demand impact of mandatory COOL on meat products and found that the typical U.S. consumer was unaware of COOL and that COOL implementation did not change consumer demand for beef steak, chicken breast or pork chop products.

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