But You'll Know Where It's From


Estimates of the cost of mandatory country-of-origin labels for food have been doubled by the US Department of Agriculture, reports the AP via Chicago Sun-Times. The new tally is likely to be $4 billion smackers and the new cost is likely to be passed on to consumers (duh).

The new rules are part of the 2002 farm bill and the labels, which are currently voluntary, will be mandatory come next September.

Most of the cost is attributed to separting sheep from goats, European meat from Canadian, etc.:

The new estimate predicts that farmers and packinghouses probably will spend $3.3 billion just on separating pigs, cattle and sheep before they're slaughtered. Record-keeping will cost another $500 million or more, [Ag Dept. spokesman Kenneth] Clayton said.

NEXT: The Trophy System

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  1. hey!

    no i didn’t. i did hear about the aussies…

    oh man. they’re cryin’ in glasgow tonight. nice!

    and, halloweed, the us rugby team (i didn’t even know it existed)…
    heh heh heh 🙂


  2. “Did you see the French rugby team kick the crap out of Scotland?”

    Having only ever seen one Rugby match, does mean that the French team scored more points, or that they elicited more blood in the scrum?

  3. Yes, Australia beat Namibia – well it was a disgrace really. I felt bad for the Namibian team. What was the score – 149-0?

    BTW, what they are talking about here is not an appellation of origin (I should have read more closely), at least not in the traditional sense. Its just a nationality labelling campaign – which is s little more questionable than an appellation of origin. A true appellation of origin should have a lot of quality control aspects to it; so when you are buying roquefort cheese, for example, you know it is made with the mold or bacteria or whatever it is from the walls of the limestone caves around Roquefort-sur-Soulzon.

  4. Jason Ligon,

    They scored more points; 51-9 was the total as I recall. France is 3-0 in its pool (Pool B – there are four pools) and has qualified for the final eight. Last Rugby Union World Championship they were we lost in the championship match.

  5. Exactly JB…had they a system whereby there were some quality metrics printed on the label, then it has credence as a quality assurance system. If there is some means to trace the product to a specific slaughterhouse, and the animal to a farm (or however up the chain as appropriate), then it has some credence as a fraud prevention measure. But to spend $4 billion in agricultural production to stamp the name of the country of origin on the label (==COOL, country-of-origin labeling), that’s ridiculous. It’s a marketing device, which is why it was devised primarily by the marketing wing of the USDA.

  6. mmmm roquefort…

    kinda like “bordeaux” is from a region, “premier cru” is a standard.

    why does nationality have to come into play? ISO9000 doesn’t use it, the “premier cru” doesn’t, as such…

    yeah — it was in the 140s. that’s the problem with these world championships where there isn’t a pool A and B (a la hockey). this way, the team from andorra won’t go up against canada, eh…


  7. david f,

    Well, not all appellations of origin are equal in merit. Regarding roquefort, the cheese is made in caves unlike any other in the world, and until someone can replicate them artificially, blue chesse will not be as good as roquefort. Anyway, appellations like much in the law have to be dealt with on a case by case basis.

  8. it’s like a standards monopoly…

    plus, isn’t premier cru a legally adopted standard, and isn’t the word “sekt” used for bubbly becase c’pagne can only come from that region?


  9. why does nationality have to come into play?

    Because it’s a nationalistic policy, for lack of a better term. It has relevance to neither actual standards nor quality metrics. It’s just something to draw consumers towards American goods. A benign effort, if it wasn’t so woefully cost inefficient. Will it even return $4 billion in value? Do lawmakers actually ask these questions before passing laws?

  10. david f.,

    Well, there’s nothing inherently wrong with a monopoly. 🙂

    Yes on the champagne issue.

  11. Whether the cost is paid by consumers or producers is wholly dependent on the price elasticity of demand.

  12. $4 billion?

    Interesting how when right-wing, antigovernemt ideologues are appointed to head federal agencies, antigovernment ideologues suddenly have no problem taking government reports like this at face value.

  13. Does this mean that rat scat will no longer be included in my food? Or do they just need to properly label it?

  14. smk, if this were a left-wing, government-happy administration, quoting $4 billion for the same thing, what would the antigovernment ideologues think?

  15. Bleepless,

    The law was likely unconstitutional on commerce clause grounds.

  16. So, tattoo a barcode on the pigs’ foreheads.

    As for non-walking food, the 99 Cents Only store had fruit bars that looked like a real bargain. But, when I saw they were from Oman, I put them back. Likewise with food made in Mexico. The first was a bit like the French thing, the second was just a matter of personal safety.

  17. … and they’re doing this, WHY?

    oh — this pork is from slovakia. i don’t speak slovak. so that’s out…

    you’re gonna fucking eat the stuff, not have a dialogue with it. jeez.

    of course since people got uptight about the french products, i guess it’s now easier for them to take out their lack of understanding about the world while shopping. can’t wait til walmart does the same thing: one stop shopping and aggression. don’t forget your RFID…

    (warren — your “doot doot” would be good again, here!)

  18. david f,

    Appellations of origin are as good a means as TM to assure quality and to cut down on potential consumer fraud. I don’t see anyone saying that TM law should be scuttled.

  19. Another great idea from your elected village idiots. Let’s spend $4 billion dollars to obfuscate the food supply chain in an effort whose sole intent is to get more Americans to buy American grocery products. Let’s force points along the supply chain to keep records per slaughter, because records help safeguard the American people. Then let’s make the records only visible to the USDA, and not the public.

    All because a cow in Canada had encephalitis.

    This is what happens when you leave old people in charge. They get scared and irrational, and pass knee-jerk laws like the Patriot Act and COOL.

  20. hey Jean Bart!

    ca va? did you see Olympique Lyon’s ballsey finish against bayern — tie it up in the 88th minute!

    whoops, back on theme: really, nation = level of quality?

    i don’t even buy that one with autos or other things. i would trust a firm’s brand identity before a national identity…

    would this be equivalent to a tyson’s chicken, unlabeled except for “fabrique en eu/usa”, being considered of equal quality with perdue chicken?

    i’d bet there are slight differences in quality, etc. from different nations. and don’t we pay the FDA gobs and gobs of money to certify/ grade the foodstuffs?

    how’s the article going?


  21. david f,

    An apellation of origin is not a nationality; its generally the name of region which the product comes from. And given that the producers who carry this appellation of origin generally tightly police the quality of their products so as to continue to merit the distinction they have earned, its a good system.

  22. david f.,

    The article goes slowly, like all my writing. 🙂

  23. david f.,

    Did you see the French rugby team kick the crap out of Scotland? 🙂

  24. I suspect all this is already recorded for good commeercial purposes. With all the crap that is required on a label, plus all the crap the motivationists put there, an origin seems not too odious.

  25. s.m.:

    Being an antigovernment idealogue myself, I figure the $4 billion is an understatement.

    The labelling, no matter how inflated or deflated the cost, will likely affect small producers in the ledger a lot more than it will affect large producers. Even a left-winger has to admit the first producers affected (read: caught, fined, and/or disallowed to do business) are going to be small foreign producers. Another technicality to catch people on. It’s a bit like the Monty Python line: “To boost the British Economy, I would tax all foreigners living abroad.”

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