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Country of Origin Labeling

March 22, 2022
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WRITTEN BY Dr. Elena Bickell

Executive Summary 

Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) is a consumer labeling law that requires retailers to identify the source, or originating country, of the product. Since 2016, COOL regulations are no longer enforced for muscle cuts of beef and pork, but still enforced for most commodities (including chicken, goat, etc.). Three bills have been introduced in the Missouri General Assembly in 2022 related to COOL. House Concurrent Resolution 62 and SCR 22 would ask the U.S. Congress to reinstate mandatory country of origin labeling for meat, and HB 1979 would modify the requirements for retail labeling of meat in the state of Missouri.

Highlights

  • COOL requirements have been repealed by the World Trade Organization (WTO) because they were ruled a technical barrier to trade due to increased production segregation and recordkeeping requirements.
  • Consumers use COOL information as cognitive cues for product quality, which are often based on emotions, such as national identity and pride.
    • Consumers say that they place high value on the traceability of the food they eat, and that they are willing to pay premiums for meat that carries the country of origin stamp. 
  • In order to assess the real consumer demand for COOL products, legislative changes would have to be enforced first, and the demand for such products would need to be high enough (2-3% higher) to offset the large compliance costs (estimated around $2.6 billion for the first year).

Limitations

  • Although the exact welfare impacts of mandatory COOL regulations are not understood, the resulting welfare of producers, packers/retailers and consumers would depend largely on who would be responsible for implementing the labeling requirements.
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