Food & Agriculture

Large Majority of Americans Strongly Support Requiring Origin Information on Fresh Meat

New Poll Shows Strong Support for USDA Country of Origin Labeling Regulations Invalidated by World Trade Organization

Washington, D.C. – Survey results, released today by the Consumer Federation of America, show that a large majority of Americans continue to strongly support mandatory country of origin labeling for fresh meat and strongly favor requiring meat to be labeled with even more specific information about where the animals were born, raised and processed.

Eighty-nine percent (89%) of a representative sample of 1000 adult Americans favored, either strongly or somewhat, requiring food sellers to indicate on the package label the country of origin of fresh meat they sell. This high level of support for country of origin labeling is similar to the results of previous polling on the issue.

Eighty-eight percent (88%) of adults favored, either strongly or somewhat, requiring food sellers to indicate on the package label the country or countries in which animals were born, raised and processed.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) changed its country of origin regulations to provide consumers with this additional information in response to a World Trade Organization (WTO) challenge by Canada and Mexico. However, even with the change, a WTO tribunal ruled that the regulation was an unlawful trade barrier. Congressional leaders cited the ruling in support of a law that repealed the regulations, which passed at the end of 2015.

“These results demonstrate that U.S. consumers continue to strongly support country of origin labeling,” said Thomas Gremillion, Director of the Food Policy Institute at Consumer Federation of America. “We urge the Administration to include country-of-origin labeling in its renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Canada and Mexico should agree to withdraw their lawsuit in the WTO and allow USDA to once again require food sellers to provide this information.”

In 2002 Congress required mandatory country-of-origin labels (“COOL”) for meats, poultry, vegetables, fruits, and some nuts. The requirements were expanded in 2008 and implemented by the USDA. Soon after the law went into effect, Canada and Mexico challenged the COOL law at the WTO, alleging it was a barrier to trade.  The WTO upheld the rights of the United States to require country of origin labeling, but found that the COOL labels for meat cuts imposed a cost to imported livestock and meat that exceeded the consumer benefit because of the limited and confusing information on COOL labels. USDA issued new regulations in an attempt to comply with the WTO ruling, and once again, the WTO ruled that they were unlawful trade barriers. While the WTO has continued to maintain that the United States may require country of origin labeling, it has refused to specify what sort of COOL regulation would satisfy its legal standards.

The telephone survey was undertaken by ORC International July 20-23, 2017, using a split sample of landlines and cell phones.  The margin of error is plus or minus three percentage points.  The survey results are available here and the survey methodology is available here.

Contact: Thomas Gremillion, 202-939-1010

The Consumer Federation of America is an association of more than 250 non-profit consumer groups that, since 1968, has sought to advance the consumer interest through research, education, and advocacy.