1-12-10-14-PLE- Andew Dickson, presenting Dec 10, 2014, 4-13 PM 2448x3264Dan Murphy is a veteran food-industry journalist and commentator who writes independently in various farm publications.
Recently, in an article in Pork Network, an online hog industry website, Murphy writes about the futility and absolute waste of time and money country of origin labelling really is.
Murphy asks when consumers in the United States pick up a package of meat from the grocery store, does anyone actually think most consumers notice the label that indicates where the meat originated?
“If so, do you think it affects their purchasing,” he asks. “The short answer to both questions is: No.”
According to new research, most shoppers have no idea the country-of-origin label even exists, and an even greater percentage don’t care, and a further majority are not willing to pay the extra money it costs to know those things.  Case in point.
Andrew Dickson, the general manager of Manitoba Pork says pork producers on both sides of the Canada U.S. border will hurt if Canada proceeds with retaliatory tariffs in response to U.S. Mandatory Country of Origin Labelling, M-COOL.
A group of people representing Manitoba Pork will travel to the U.S. Midwest in late January, to participate in the Minnesota Pork Congress and the Iowa Pork Congress as part of a trade advocacy mission. These interactions always create great positive vibes between the two industries representing the two countries.
Dickson says among the issues up for discussion is the U.S. M-COOL.
“We’re now at the stage where we’ll be going to Geneva in February to deal with the appeal by the U.S. of the ruling from the compliance panel that came out in the fall,” says Dickson. “We have every expectation  the panel will be favorable to our position on this and we’re expecting that report to come out some time in May and the next step after that will be this whole issue of retaliatory measures.”
The U.S. hog farmers are particularly sensitive on this issue and want even less to do with the effects of the M-COOL forced upon them by the latest U.S. Farm Bill.
Pork imports from the U.S. into Canada is a listed item that may be subject to an import tax if the U.S. doesn’t change the rules on M-COOL after a favourable WTO hearing.
“And of course the thing is, if we’re into this sort of retaliatory issue we’re all going to lose,” says the MP general manager and most people agree with him. “Any backup of pork into the U.S. system will essentially mean that there’ll be lower prices in the U.S. and that means our producers get lower prices as well so no one in the pork industry wants to be involved in retaliatory measures.”
Dickson says it’s not good for Manitoba hog farmers, so it is important to resolve this issue before it gets to the next phase. Yet, huge political forces are at play here in terms of trying to keep the current COOL in place.
He says local issues drive politics in the U.S. and it’s going to be state associations, state organizations that will help drive the move to get COOL legislation amended. Hence the meetings and dialogues between the organizations producing the same product, but on different sides of the border.
There are other ways to build up trust and loyalty for food products other than M-COOL.
Charlie Arnot, the CEO of the Center for Food Integrity, a not-for profit organization established to build consumer trust and confidence in today’s food system, says greater transparency within the food production system will go a long way toward restoring and maintaining the trust of consumers.
Arnot says over the last 40 years, amidst consolidation, integration and application of technology in agriculture, consumers feel a bit more alienated from farming and food production than before.
“Most consumers are wanting to know, is the food safe, is it relatively affordable,” said Arnot. “That tends to be where that level of information request ends for most consumers, but you do have others with increased interest in a variety of different elements, again from whether or not we’re using animal health products that are ultimately safe for consumers, the impact of today’s production systems on animal welfare.”
“Those consumers are looking for the food system to be much more transparent,” he says. “We hear that consistently and our research shows that increasing the transparency of today’s food system can go a long way to increasing trust, especially with those consumers who are most skeptical.”  •
— By Harry Siemens