Let’s see some I-D. New federal rules are going to require country of origin labelingand will force some farmers to tighten up record-keeping for their herds. ISU Beef Center director John Lawrence says the reasoning behind “Country of Origin Labeling” is giving consumers the right to know where their food comes from. It’s seldom been an issue, and COOL labeling includes other things like fruits and vegetables, fish, and peanuts but since Iowa produces pork and beef, those are the things we’d be most concerned about. About 10-percent of our food is imported and beef produced in Australia and New Zealand is grass-fed and therefore leaner and good for grinding with our marbled corn-fed US beef to make premium 90- or 95-percent hamburger. Lawrence says there are still lots of questions about how Country of Origin Labeling will be put into affect. How we document it, for example, and know a retailer’s “Product of the US” label is accurate, as Lawrence says people disagree about what it takes. Lawrence says the Country of Origin proposal is still in a tentative stage and no final decision’s been reached on whether all foods must be labeled, or just those that were NOT entirely produced in the U-S. What’s important for producers is that it becomes mandatory in September 2004, so this spring’s calves will need documentation when they’re sold for meat and farmers need to think how they’ll handle that. Lawrence says the ear-tags farmers use already and records kept on cattle will be enough to verify their local origin, and hogs are generally kept in groups from birth to slaughterhouse so a “paper trail” is enough to confirm their identity.
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