Report: Mandatory country-of-origin labeling has not increased demand for US meat

A report from the Kansas State University Department of Agricultural Economics found that 2009 mandatory country-of-origin labeling (MCOOL) legislation has not significantly impacted demand but has increased costs for producers.  

MCOOL requires retail grocers to provide country-of-origin labeling for products including fresh beef, pork, lamb, chicken, goat, wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish, peanuts, pecans, ginseng and macadamia nuts.

Proponents of the regulation argue that consumers want origin information, and have a right to know the provenance of meat products they purchase. Opponents hold that given the benefits, the cost of compliance is too high for producers, processors and retailers.

Trading partners led by Mexico and Canada brought a successful challenge to MCOOL before the World Trade Organization, alleging the meat labeling law violates US trade obligations under the WTO agreement on technical barriers to trade. The US is in the process of responding.

The study utilized retail grocery scanner data, an online survey and in-person interviews to arrive at the following conclusions:

-          Demand for covered meat products has not been impacted by MCOOL legislation.

-          Typical US residents are unaware of MCOOL and do not look for meat origin information.

-          Consumers regularly indicate they prefer meat products carrying origin information. However, consumers reveal similar valuations of alternative origin labels   such as “Product of North America.”

-          Conclusions held across species and product evaluated.

 Only 23 percent of online survey respondents were aware of MCOOL, 12 percent incorrectly believed MCOOL is not law, and nearly two-thirds did not know if MCOOL is a law. Given the lack of impact on demand and the significant cost of compliance, the report suggests, there has been an aggregate economic loss for the US meat and livestock supply chain. Read the full report here.