A NEW study by economists at Kansas State University and Oklahoma State University concluded that the country-of-origin labeling (COOL) rule has provided no benefit for the U.S. meat sector and, therefore, for U.S. livestock producers and, in fact, has been injurious.
The study examined the effect of COOL on demand for beef, pork and chicken using in-person and online surveys and retail scanner data of sales of products covered by COOL. It found four primary results.
First, less than 25% of consumers surveyed were even aware of COOL. Second, a majority of in-person respondents said they have never considered or looked for COOL information. Third, COOL has had no effect on demand for beef, pork or chicken.
These first three findings suggest that COOL has resulted in an economic loss because it has been costly to implement and has provided no demand offset, according to the study's lead economist, Glynn Tonsor at Kansas State.
He also noted that COOL implementation has been more costly and, therefore, disadvantageous for beef and pork packers than for chicken processors.
The final finding is that consumers equally value meat products labeled as "Product of the U.S." and "Product of North America."
The study did not suggest that this final finding could be a means of resolving the World Trade Organization's ruling that the U.S. must rewrite COOL to bring it into compliance with WTO rules.
However, other sources said the implication is clear that if consumers do not differentiate between, for instance, U.S. beef and North American beef, this would be a means to reduce the cost of COOL because it would not require segregation of livestock and meat products.
In addition to Tonsor, other economists on the study were Ted Schroeder and Mykel Taylor at Kansas State and Jayson Lusk at Oklahoma State. The U.S. Department of Agriculture provided a $350,000 grant for the study.
Additional details from the study are available at www.agmanager.info/livestock/policy/default.asp.