New Law Identifies Imported Meats
By Debra Davis
Alabama farmers are hoping consumers will vote with their pocketbooks and support new Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) laws that distinguish U.S.-grown beef and other meats from imported food at the grocery store.
|Alabama Farmers Federation State Women's Committee Chairman Delle Bean of Calhoun County looks for the U.S. label when she shops for food.|
It took the U.S. Department of Agriculture six years to write the rules, but mandatory COOL began Sept. 30. The big hold up was for meat, said Alabama Farmers Federation Beef Division Director Perry Mobley. But the Alabama Farmers Federation and other farm organizations support COOL and believe consumers deserve to know where their food is grown.
Delle and Ray Bean live and work on their family farm in Calhoun County near Anniston where they raise poultry and beef cattle. Delle is chairman of the Alabama Farmers Federation State Women's Committee. She said she supports the new COOL requirements both as a farmer and a consumer.
"As an American farmer, I know how we care and provide for our chickens and cattle," Delle said. "There are lots of government regulations that we have to operate under, but farming is more than just a job for us. We care for our animals because it's the right thing to do."
For years, American consumers could look at labels on their clothes and know where they were made. Food shouldn't be any different, Delle said.
As a consumer, Delle supports other American farmers by buying food produced in the United States.
"I think consumers trust us to provide them with good, wholesome, safe food," she said. "I take that responsibility very seriously because I'm also a consumer. I want the safest, most wholesome food supply possible for my family and for the families who eat what we produce. When I buy American products, I feel safe feeding it to my family."
The new COOL regulations affect animals born after July 15, 2008. Paperwork will accompany those animals when they are sold and should make any meat traceable from the farm to the retail sales counter, Mobley said. Because it affects animals born after July 15, it might take several months for the requirement to be fully applicable, he said.
The store labels may appear on meat packages or as placards at the meat case in grocery stores. Some placards may indicate that the meat is a combination of imported and domestic meat, Mobley said.
Mobile County Farmers Federation President Calvin Freeland has a cattle operation on his farm, and while the new rule will require him to keep detailed records of where the cattle he purchases for resale came from, he said it would be worth it.
"If given the choice, I think most people will choose to buy American-grown beef and other meats," Freeland said. "I believe our meat tastes better, is more tender and is the safest in the world. Plus, buying it supports American farmers. Before this, consumers probably didn't know where their meat came from."
"If you want to be sure you're getting meat from animals born in the United States and raised by American producers, look for the U.S. label," Mobley said.