John Morriss, veteran journalist for Manitoba Cooperator, sees irony in the continued fight against the United States' requirement that beef be labeled to indicate its country of origin.
He notes that at the same time the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association is fighting COOL, it is promoting cattle identification back to the farm and herd of origin.
On the one hand, the CCA sees opportunity to profit by identifying where cattle originate and on the other hand is hiring lawyers and consultants that have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to fight COOL.
The same could be said of the Canadian Pork Council.
But Morriss chose beef for his editorial because he noticed that McDonald’s, which has been the biggest buyer of beef for decades, announced a new purchasing policy under which it is going to source all of its beef from Canada.
Morriss said that’s quite a coup, a feather in the Canadian cap.
But he wonders why the Canadian government and the CCA have been so silent about this victory.
But, of course, it’s because it would undermine their fight against COOL, he argues.
“At last count the CCA had spent $3.25 million in legal fees and $3 million in other advocacy costs in fighting it. It’s time to quit,” Morriss writes.
“The beef business is clearly headed to a system where every package can be labelled not to country of origin, but farm of origin.
“Canada already has the system to get there ahead of the U.S. Instead of spending checkoff money on lawyers’ fees, why not spend it on getting there sooner?”
Let me remind Morris about why.
The way the U.S. goes about requiring labels to identify country of origin means meat packers have to keep separate track of cattle from the U.S., from Canada and from Mexico. That costs a lot of time, effort and money.
That reduces the U.S. packer’s interest in Canadian and Mexican cattle.
That has depressed the price of Canadian cattle – all of them, both those that could be going to a U.S. packing plant and those that stay home where packers don’t have to bid as much because the Canadian cattle aren’t going South.
McDonald’s plan flows naturally from this situation. But, rather than buying U.S. beef, it’s buying Canadian. Not a blend of American, Mexican and Canadian, but from one country. Because it’s cheaper that way. Not better.
That’s why there’s value in continuing to fight COOL.
And promoting individual cattle identification is still a good idea – because it’s better and therefore worth a premium price. And if it’s not worth a premium price, it’s just another expensive nuisance.