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Cargill is tightening its country of origin labeling (COOL) practices to identify more beef and pork products as being sourced exclusively from the United States.
For its part, Cargill will transition its beef and pork programs to the "Product of the USA" and "Product of USA, Canada, Mexico" labels, and expects to have a minimum of 70 percent of its product meet the "Product of the USA" labeling standard by Jan. 1, 2009.
Under USDA's Country of Origin Labeling program, the "Product of the USA" label means the livestock were born, raised and harvested in the U.S.
For multiple countries of origin, Cargill will use label B, "Product of USA, Canada, Mexico," which means the livestock may be born in one country, but sent at an early age to the U.S. to be raised and processed.
Wichita, Kan.-based Cargill has been working with many of its largest beef and pork customers and producers to ensure that labeling can be done effectively and efficiently.
"We have had great success in working with both cattle producers and retailers to create products that meet consumers' highest standards," said Cargill beef president John Keating, reiterating the company's commitment to serving producers who source top quality cattle and hogs from outside the U.S.
"We are deeply committed to North American cattle and hog producers and will work to see that they can achieve the highest possible return for their hard work and investment," Keating added.
Keating said the transition can be accomplished in an efficient manner by working in partnership with producers to ensure that animals with common characteristics are delivered to its processing plants grouped together.
"We anticipate that we will need to make some shifts in the way we operate our plants, probably designating different delivery windows for different types of animals," he explained, which would require working closely with its retail, foodservice, and export customers.
One of the challenges in implementing a country of origin labeling program is managing the costs associated with segregating products based on characteristics such as quality grades or production practices. However, beef and pork in Cargill's premium programs, such as Sterling Silver and antibiotic-free, are already segregated from other products and labeled separately.