Congress considers removing country-of-origin label from meat sold in US

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COLUMBIA - There's heated debate in Capitol Hill about your dinner plans, not what's on your plate but where it came from.

Right now beef, pork and chicken have a country-of-origin label or COOL sticker. However, this week, the U.S. House of Representative voted to repeal meat labeling laws after Canada and Mexico threatened $3 billion in trade sanctions.

The World Trade Organization is pushing Congress to remove the labels or pay a penalty. WTO leaders believe the labels promote propaganda and discrimination against foreign meat.

Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) voted in favor to drop the labels.

Hartzler said in a statement, "I am pleased to see this bill work quickly through the House. Since the WTO's ruling in May, Canada has announced it will be seeking $3 billion in retaliatory sanctions. Mexico will likely follow suit. In Missouri alone, retaliation could mean additional export tariffs on an estimated $623 million in export. I urge the Senate to work just as quickly as we did in the House - American workers, consumers, and industries cannot afford to let this issue linger."

Mid-Missouri residents had different things to say about the potential removal of the label.

Dwayne Kinnard says the labels don't provide enough information about the meat to begin with.

"What worries me is who grew it, what they used on it, when they grew it. I think that information is more important than what country is came from," Kinnard said.

Phillip Liu says he is worried about the labels potentially not being printed on the meat anymore.

"I would like to see the labels and where the meat's coming from. I would look into the food laws for different countries. If it's more strict than I am more likely to buy from there," Liu said. "Just because I have money, I don't want to be putting cheap cuts of meat into my stomach."

Lawmakers voted to include the labels in 2008, but labels started showing up on meat only in the last year.

The Senate it set to bring up the issue early next week.