Country of Origin Labeling has been around for years but a recent United States Department of Agriculture ruling has increased the information on the label from just the county of origin to include where the beef was born, raised and processed.
The Kansas Cattlemen's Association has worked with the USDA for years to improve COOL and supports the new ruling, said KCA Executive Director Brandy Carter.
Public health concerns about meat quality are a factor in expanding the information provided in COOL.
"Consumers deserve to know where their beef comes from," Carter said.
Consumers can go to the grocery store today and see COOL in use. Besides giving the consumer more information to make an educated decision on meat purchases, the expanded COOL program also permits better identification of U.S. beef so producers can showcase their products, Carter said.
Since COOL has been in place for several years, much, if not everything, is already in place to provide the necessary information for the expanded labeling.
Beef producers, feedlots, sale barns and meat packers already have record keeping practices in place so getting the additional information on the label should be simple, Carter said.
"It shouldn't be a burden to them at all," Carter said.
Most ranchers raise their own beef or the purchase beef at a sale barn that was raised in the U.S. so it's fairly easy for them to have born and raised information available when they sell the cattle.
For feed lots like Pratt Feeders, the additional identification is just added to information they already have.
Most of the cattle Pratt Feeders handles, about 99 percent, comes from the U.S. anyway so foreign beef is almost not an issue for them. Only rarely do they get cattle from Mexico and hardly ever get any from Canada, said Jerry Bohn, general manager for Pratt Feeders.
If foreign cattle do come in, they are ear tagged and branded and the owner has documentation. A form is filled out for any pen with foreign livestock.
Most of the foreign cattle that come to Pratt Feeders spend more time there then in their country of origin.
Pratt Feeders has to inform a packer processor if any beef comes from outside the U.S.
"It's fairly simple," Bohn said.
Foreign beef is not an issue at T&W Meats in Kingman and Preston. They only process meat product in the U.S. It's all bought and sold domestically, said Rendall Barfoot, USDA food safety and inspection service.
If foreign cattle were brought in, the information necessary for the expanded COOL program would be brought in with the cattle and that would be added to the label.
Page 2 of 2 - Any foreign cattle would be brought to Barfoot's attention when it was brought in and it would have to pass inspection just like domestic beef then labeled before it was sold.
Bigger producers, like those at Dodge City, would be more likely to have to deal with foreign beef.
But since T&W already identifies beef with COOL, adding the additional information will be simple.
Grocery stores like Dillons have a lot of meat delivered that is already processed and packaged such as their Sterling line from Cargill in Dodge City. It already contains COOL information when it arrives, said Sheila Lowrie, Dillons' spokesperson.
Dillons also produces their own meet products in store and places COOL information on the product wrapping. The new required information will also be placed on labels.
"We always adhere to USDA regulations," Lowrie said. "Since its (COOL) inception, we label for the customer to view. It's standard procedure for us."
Since they already have origin labeling, the addition of more information will not be a problem.
Dillons always tracks the source of their meat products as well as seafood that is also part of the COOL program. Dillons also tracks their fresh fruits and vegetables. They try to use locally grown produce as well and that also comes under USDA regulations.
"We love the opportunity to work with our local farmers," Lowrie said.
The COOL program helps Dillons provide safe products for consumption. Maintaining food integrity is a top priority for Dillons, Lowrie said