January 19, 2016 by gregrabidoux2013
I am not a, shall we say, beef-a-holic. I even (gasp) tried to “go vegan” once. That was a learning experience. Tofu this, ’nuff said.
Point is, I do enjoy a nice, juicy beef burger once in awhile, maybe even a porterhouse steak (more garlic butter, yes, please!).
But my recent shopping adventure as I hunted for some beef at my local Wal-Mart, Publix, and even WholeFoods stores left a rather unpleasant taste. Seems that when it comes to retailers disclosing what seems to be critical, logical information to we consumer “hunters, gatherers and grillers,” the question becomes, “Where’s the Beef (From)?”
Let’s back away from the grill a moment and um, ketchup a bit on recent news.
In 2002, the US Congress passed, as part of the Farm Bill, a consumer disclosure law that made it mandatory that all retailers had to put a “country of origin label” on all packaged beef, pork, and lamb. Makes sense, right? This way, if you wanted to buy beef from say, Australia, or Peru or even our cousins to the north, Canada, you could. On the other hand, if you wanted, Grade A, UDA inspected, 100% pure American beef you could also just check the label and know that’s what you’d be grilling later that day. (Beef, it’s what’s for dinner, yes).
In 2008 Congress expanded this law to include fresh fruits, nuts and most vegetables. OK, those can be yummy too and I actually look for Costa Rican bananas and Brazilian nuts (sorry, Planters Peanuts).
So far so good. Imagine, elected officials seemingly passing laws that make sense for we, consumers and presidents signing these bills into law. Mrs. Jefferson, Madison and Hamilton feel free to take a bow, the system works.
Whoops, for the love of Washington I may have spoke too soon.
Late last year, about the time we were celebrating the holidays and carving into that USDA prime rib, the GOP led Congress and the DEM dominated White House got together and passed a different sort of bill into a law. (Ok, now I am worried a bit).
Actually they repealed the Country of Origin Labeling Law (COOL). Geez, these folks never get along and this is the one time they pick to play nice?
Seems the not so jolly folks at the World Trade Organization (WTO) threatened retaliatory trade sanctions on the US because, to cut to the bone, they want US consumers to keep buying imported beef, and are you sitting down (?) even if we do not know that is what we are buying. That last part is a quote from a WTO official.
Really? Can this be? And did everyone know about this and still went ahead and killed the law?
Yep. Pass the um, whatever that meaty-looking substance is from, and cross your fingers.
Think I am exaggerating?
Well, the new lack of labeling law will be phased in over the course of this year, 2016. Which means a couple of things for all you (us) grillmeisters. First, if your beef says something like USDA 100% Pure Beef, this does not mean 100% pure US beef. I spoke with a colleague at the US Cattlemen’s Association. He said that the package of beef you are holding with juicy, burger thoughts in mind can come from as many as 6 different countries, and, as long as about 10% of the beef comes from the US some retailers will legally put a label that says “US Beef.”
In fact, a few more calls and I was told by a pal who used to work at the US DOA that part of the concern from the WTO was that US beef-buyers were starting to shy away from imported beef because of “bad press” over Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy” (Mad Cow Disease). You think? And that the countries that were most hurt by this were Australia, Canada and Argentina. And do you need a hint as to the three countries that were some of the most vocal in the WTO calling for the repeal of COOL?
Ah, you must have peaked.
So, what of my recent safari to Wal-Mart, Publix and Whole-Foods? Well, it took quite some time, effort, web-based research and even another call to pal who works in the meat industry.
One, the Big Mac and Fries at your local McDonald’s may now have even more regulations than the beef you buy retail and two, I am about to grill a 2LB package of beef that I am almost certain came from Turkey, Israel, Canada, Mexico and Oklahoma.
You know, on second thought, go ahead and pass me those genetically altered, artificially spray-painted, wax-polished Honey-Apples. I think I just lost my appetite.