Senate Bill 2716, the American Beef Labeling Act, was recently introduced by U.S. Senators Cory Booker, John Thune, Jon Tester, and Mike Rounds. The legislation seeks to reinstate the mandatory country of origin labeling (MCOOL) requirements for beef. MCOOL already applies to several other food commodities after being passed by Congress in the 2002 Farm Bill. Beef and pork were both subsequently removed from the MCOOL requirements in 2015.
“Transparency in labeling benefits both producers and consumers,” Thune said in a press release. “Unfortunately, the current beef labeling system in this country allows imported beef that is neither born nor raised in the United States, but simply finished here, to be labeled as a product of the USA. This process is unfair to cattle producers and misleading for consumers. When you see a ‘product of the USA’ label on the grocery store shelf, it should mean just that.
The American Beef Labeling Act calls for the development of a World Trade Organization-compliant method for reinstating MCOOL protocols. The U.S. Trade Representative would work with the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture in establishing reinstatement measures. A window of six months from the legislation’s enactment would be provided for the development of reinstatement plans. Another six months would be provided for the implementation of the new requirements. Failure to reinstate MCOOL for beef within the timeframe would automatically reestablish the rule for beef only.
“It’s time to restore Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (MCOOL) once and for all,” said Rounds. “This is an important step in restoring market integrity for consumers and cattle producers. For too long, the packers have skewed this market in their favor. Now, we take it back. I’m thankful to my colleagues for helping carry this important issue for consumers and cattle producers. I’ve long said that consumers will need to drive and help carry this policy debate.