Earlier when we wrote about losing Country of Origin Labeling (COOL), we warned that meat from both near and far would have equally vague labels—omitting critical information on where the animals were born, raised, and processed. Whether a cow was raised in Australia or Massachusetts, China or Oklahoma, it’s hard enough to catch intricacies on today’s food labels—even harder to catch something that’s not there.
It seemed bad enough that all these packages would be missing information, but even worse, they can now all be labeled “product of the USA”.
The growth of local food culture makes it a safe guess that foreign products would prefer to omit origin information. When it comes to meat (especially grass-fed options), lately we’ve seen several products we know to be foreign boasting “product of the USA” labels. We looked into this, and found that, in fact, many of the animals are raised in other countries such as Uruguay, outside US jurisdiction, and shipped to the US for retail. The animals spend their lives on pastures abroad and are largely processed in other countries. Large “primal” cuts are then transported for weeks to be cut and processed in US facilities. Given only this last step, the final labels still legally certify the product as “product of USA.”
In our new unCOOL landscape, it’s hard to take origin information seriously. The lack of labeling was problematic, but printing the most recent country of processing is downright dishonest. Without paying specific attention to farms, farmers, and regions, the consumer has no information on which to make a knowledgeable choice. We have reached a point where no label is almost the preferable alternative—unfortunately no information seems better than false information. At Walden, our cuts stipulate “Born, Raised, and Harvested in the USA” no loopholes, no tricks – we even print the farmer’s name and the town where the animal was raised!