House Agriculture Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia and 42 co-sponsors in May introduced bipartisan legislation for a voluntary country-of-origin labeling program for beef, pork, and lamb sold in the United States.
The Meat Promotion Act (H.R. 2068)—V-COOL, for short—would replace mandatory country-of-origin labeling for meat and is scheduled to take effect in September 2006.
Goodlatte said VCOOL would allow producers to work with processors and retailers to provide labeling information to help them market their product. This approach benefits both consumers and producers, the chairman added, and is preferable to the mandatory program, which is more likely to harm those it's meant to help.
If passed, the act will allow retailers to label beef, pork, and lamb as U.S. products only if they are derived exclusively from animals born, raised, and slaughtered in the United States.
Participants would have to keep records the Department of Agriculture could inspect to verify program compliance. Violators, including anyone labeling meat from animals that have not been born, raised, and slaughtered in America as having U.S. country-of-origin status, would be subject to a civil penalty of up to $10,000.
In addition, the USDA would create a unique label for retailers to designate country of origin.
The American Meat Institute, National Cattlemen's Beef Association, National Meat Association, and National Pork Producers Council support the V-COOL proposal.