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SEATTLE -- Consumer-owned natural foods cooperative PCC Natural Markets yesterday began implementing country-of-origin labeling (COOL) of meat, seafood, peanuts, and fresh produce, even without mandatory requirements.
“All meat and fresh seafood products, as well as fresh produce and peanuts, will carry country-of-origin labels at PCC by the end of August,” said Paul Schmidt, PCC’s director of merchandising. “Doing so has not increased our costs or imposed any undue burden, as opponents have claimed.” The last PCC meat vendor is now reprinting its labels, upon PCC’s request, to indicate “Product of the U.S.A.”
A vote for mandatory meat labeling on July 19 taken by the Agriculture Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives moves this twice-delayed provision of the 2002 Farm Bill (The Farm Security and Rural Investment Act) to the Senate floor.
Delay of mandatory COOL is attributed to complaints that recordkeeping and labor involved in compliance would be too costly for meat importers, meat packers, and large retailers who often mix meat products. Proponents have countered by saying that consumers deserve to know where their food is from and, if given a choice, prefer domestic products as they have more confidence in the safety of food produced in the U.S.
In other news, PCC was recognized for its recycling efforts by being named a “Best Workplace for Recycling 2007” by its local county government.
The Best Workplace for Recycling award is given to companies that have shown leadership and commitment to making recycling and other waste reduction practices part of routine business operations. PCC is one of 21 businesses that have been acknowledged for its efforts by the Solid Waste Division of King County, Wash., and the only grocery retailer. All eight of PCC’s stores are located in King County.
“Resource conservation and waste reduction is a daily commitment at PCC, shared by our 770 employees,” said Tracy Wolpert, c.e.o.
There are currently no regulated standards for recycling efforts by businesses, but PCC has had procedures in place for several years that not only make recycling required in all stores and its business office, but are also easy for employees to follow. Waste reduction actions taken by PCC internally have included procedures to maximize recycling cardboard, plastic products, mixed paper, glass and cans, and procedures for composting food waste and waxed cardboard.
In 2006, 855 tons of cardboard were recycled at all PCC locations, and over 500 tons of compostables were collected, according to the retailer. Resources conservation is achieved in several ways, from the programming of office printers to print on both sides of a page, to zero waste staff, member and public events.
PCC’s commitment to recycling is shared by customers and suppliers, as well as staff. Customers re-used almost 578,000 grocery bags, coffee bags, and egg cartons last year. Forty-one tons of clothing and household items no longer needed by shoppers were collected in bins placed at PCC locations by Northwest Center, a local non-profit that funds, in part, its support of persons with disabilities through the resale of donated items. Vendors such as Rents Due, a local grower, and Ocean Beauty, PCC’s primary seafood supplier, also played a role through programs that reduce delivery packaging and encourage re-use of delivery containers.
PCC Natural Markets is a certified organic retail cooperative with annual sales of $105 million and an active membership of nearly 40,000 households. PCC operates eight stores in the Seward Park, View Ridge, Greenlake, West Seattle, Fremont, Kirkland, Redmond, and Issaquah neighborhoods.