New meat labels would specify where cows and pigs were born, raised and slaughtered. Canada and Mexico claim it is protectionism and have filed objections with World Trade Organization
Background | Equine Welfare Alliance
Russia plans to ban meat imports from most Canadian and Mexican suppliers from April 8 over concerns about the use of the feed additive ractopamine, Russia’s veterinary and phytosanitary service (VPSS) said on Friday.
“More than 50 percent of Canadian companies will be excluded from the list of suppliers,” VPSS spokesman Alexei Alekseenko said.
Russia also plans to ban about 80 percent of Mexican meat importers from April 8, Interfax news agency reported earlier on Friday, citing the head of VPSS Sergei Dankvert.
Canada was the largest pork supplier to Russia and accounted for 25 percent of its imports in 2012, Sergei Yushin, head of Russia’s National Meat Association, told Reuters. About 5 percent of imported beef came to Russia from Mexico last year.
VPSS’s list of Canadian pork suppliers, published on its website http://www.fsvps.ru, includes about 88 companies, while the list for Mexico includes 20 names. A VPSS spokesman could not comment on whether these lists had been updated.
Used as a growth stimulant to make meat leaner, ractopamine is banned in some countries over concerns that residues could remain in the meat and cause health problems, despite scientific evidence indicating that it is safe.
Since December, Russia has only accepted meat from Canadian livestock that were never fed ractopamine – which was already a tiny portion of the cattle herd, said John Masswohl, director of government and international relations at the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association.
Now Russia will only accept meat from ractopamine-free animals that are processed in Canadian plants that do not also handle livestock that have been raised on the stimulant – and such plants do not exist in Canada, Masswohl said.
“You’re taking a very bad existing situation, which limits (beef) trade to almost nothing, and making it nothing.”
Cargill Ltd and JBS USA Holdings Inc, are the biggest beef packers in Canada.
“Our government is disappointed that despite our collaborative efforts, the Russian government is moving forward with this measure not rooted in science,” said Canadian Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, in an email statement to Reuters. “We continue to work aggressively with Canadian industry to restore their access into the important Russian market.”
Russia is a small, but fast-growing market for Canadian beef, worth about C$15 million ($14.7 million) in 2011. Russia is the third-largest market for Canadian pork, worth about C$500 million a year, said Jacques Pomerleau, executive director of Canada Pork International, a marketing promotion agency.
Click HERE for the Russian site on Mexico that specifically calls out horse meat. Rosselkhoznadzor / Import. Export.Transit. Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance.
Meat labels will include where animal was born and slaughtered, irking Canada and Mexico.
If the feds get their way, meats on supermarket shelves will include some unappetizing details, such as where the animal was slaughtered.
Find that stomach-turning?
Better get used to it: Labels on meat products sold in the U.S. could soon read like a sad mini-biography of the ranch-raised beasts.
In a little-known regulatory action that has produced a storm of criticism, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has moved to rework how meats are sold at retailers, including grocery stores, are labeled. Under the Obama administration’s plan, meats would have to include labels informing the consumer where the animal was born, raised and slaughtered.
The USDA touts it as a thrust toward transparency that will benefit consumers. But outraged critics, including Canada and Mexico — the leading beef exporters to the U.S. — and retailers themselves, howl that the proposed rules are thinly veiled protectionism.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture says the new meat labels would provide more transparency for consumers on where their food came from.
They argue there is no evidence consumers want such details or that any supposed benefits wouldn’t be offset by what industry groups say will be a resulting increase in the cost of meats.
“Do consumers really want the word ‘Slaughtered’ on their meat?” asked Bill Watson, a foreign trade expert at the libertarian Cato Institute. “No. The consumer information argument is pure baloney meant to hide what would otherwise be ridiculously obvious protectionism.”
Many food products contain a label noting country of origin, a regulation stemming from 2002 and 2008 farm bills passed in Congress.
Country-of-origin labeling applies to certain beef, pork, lamb, chicken, goat, fish and shellfish, as well as fruits, vegetables and some nuts.
The Obama administration’s new proposals, which it has been trying to implement for a few years — would require labelling changes to roughly 30% of the beef sold in the U.S. and to 11% of all pork products, according to the Congressional Research Service, the research arm of Congress. In a huge exemption, restaurants and other food service providers, such as McDonald’s, are not covered.
Where the animal was slaughtered will also be included on the beef if the labels are approved, though the country’s North American neighbors say they are uncalled for. President Obama is revisiting the plan with the USDA.
The Food Marketing Institute, which represents retail giants like Target and single-store groceries, says the new rules will cost many millions of dollars to implement and result in higher food prices.
Canada and Mexico filed legal objections with the World Trade Organization, arguing that their livestock exporters would be hurt by what they see as a protectionist policy. The U.S. lost the initial judgment and again on appeal.
Following the dual setbacks, the Obama administration has until May 23 to revise the program. Changes have been made, but both Canada and Mexico say the revised regulations would still hurt their livestock exporters.
The two nations are joined by unhappy U.S. livestock and food industry groups, including the prime lobbying group for supermarkets, in alleging that it’s all too expensive and unnecessary.
Major U.S. cattle ranchers and consumer groups, however, argue that Americans want to know as much as possible about what they eat.