The U.S. Department of Agriculture issued regulations in 2009 that required retailers to disclose the country of origin on the labels of meat products. This gave U.S. consumers some real information about where their meat comes from.
It also upset Canada and Mexico. They do not want U.S. meat products labeled with the country of origin. In fact, they filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization, which ruled against the U.S. And where was the U.S. meat packing industry? Right on the side of Canada and Mexico, of course. The big meat packing industry does not want us to know where our meat comes from either.
The USDA has proposed new regulations that would provide us with even more information on the labels of meat products. This is a very good thing. But Canada and Mexico are threatening to impose retaliatory tariffs on U.S. products if the new system is used, or the old system is continued.
Why do these nations not want us to know if a product contains their meat? Are they not proud of the meat they produce and sell?
I contend that we have an absolute right to know what country our meat comes from, and much, much more about it. It is all about freedom. Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. meat packing industry have no right to deny us this information.
My Experience with Canadian Meat
In 1983, I visited Canada as a tourist. I still remember walking into Safeway as a consumer, and seeing some absolutely beautiful meat. A beautiful prime rib roast caught my eye. It was two ribs, and much smaller than a comparable American roast. I cooked it simply. I was astonished at how good it was, far better than American beef. Tender, with incredible flavor. If meat from Canada had been available at my local store, I would have bought nothing else after this wonderful experience. That is the kind of meat Canada used to produce.
Many years later, beef labeled as being from Canada appeared in local stores, and I eagerly bought some. It did not look any different from U.S. beef, but I was excited to get it. I was very disappointed. The meat tasted the same as U.S. factory meat. Canada had adopted the U.S. factory meat model. A great tradition of raising wonderful beef was thrown away for short-term corporate profit. That was a shame. There is no way I will ever eat factory meat again, no matter where it comes from.
While there are some wonderful grassfed Canadian ranchers, their meat is not exported to the U.S., as far as I know.
The Glory of Mexican Beef
I have not had meat that I know comes from Mexico, but I know the history of the Mexican expertise with cattle. Mexican vaqueros were experts in raising great cattle. They founded the huge California cattle industry, one of the most successful in the world when California was part of Spain, and later, Mexico. When the king of Hawaii wanted experts to teach his people how to raise and manage cattle, he hired three vaqueros from Mexico to teach his people, which they did. They shared much knowledge with the Americans who settled the west. I know butchers raised in Mexico who have great knowledge about fine beef, and how to raise it and recognize it. I fear that the meat exported to the U.S. from Mexico follows the U.S. Big Ag factory model, rather than the traditions of Mexico, which is another shame.
The Icelandic Experience
Iceland, rather than trying to hide the origin of its lamb, proudly proclaims it. Many Americans are willing to pay very high prices for lamb from Iceland, which is grassfed, raised in a traditional manner, and has wonderful taste and tenderness.
Canada and Mexico Should Learn from Iceland
Rather than trying to hide the origin of meat from U.S. consumers, I contend that Canada and Mexico should raise and export better meat—grassfed meat. Meat raised on the great natural forage of each nation. Meat they can be proud of. In fact, if they adopt and promote the methods of Allan Savory they will preserve and improve their grasslands and water courses, while raising excellent beef. They should give up the American factory model, which produces meat through chemicals, hormones, and unnatural feeds. I challenge them to return to the tradition of their ancestors, and produce real meat that is so good that Americans will flock to buy it. If Canada and Mexico produce meat of that quality, the label will become an advertisement of quality, rather than a handicap.
In the meantime, kindly stop interfering with our right to know where our meat comes from!
And I want to thank the United States Department of Agriculture for actually protecting our right to know what country our food comes from, and requiring even more labeling information.
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