Canada Still Reeling From Origin Labeling

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Just last month, the U.S. Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling Bill (COOL) was repealed in a budget deal.

But the damage has already been done, Canada has a strong hog trade with the U.S. specifically between the province of Manitoba and Midwestern states like Iowa.

When the repeal of COOL happened, Canada praised it, but here in the U.S. some still want to know where their food comes from.

However, labeling meat isn't a simple matter. You have to track where the hog was born, raised, slaughtered, and where the cuts all go.

Margaret Rempel raises pigs in the southeast side of Manitoba, she says, "A piglet weighting 15-20 pounds comes south to Iowa, where it's fed and raised to 250 pounds then goes to market. The value added to that 15-20 pound piglet all occurs in Iowa."

Rempel says when businesses had to deal with all the paperwork, they'd rather just use U.S. piglets.

Before COOL, there were a lot of farrowing barns in Manitoba because its low winter climates kill off disease. The piglets there were contracted to ship to the south, where states like Iowa have a feed advantage.

Rempel says that ground to a halt with COOL, "So we went from sending about six million weanlings from Manitoba to be finished and slaughtered in the south to about one million or even less than that. It was a huge decrease."

A lot of barns closed down when COOL was put in place, according to Rempel, and with its repeal, those trade lines have recovered. She says they won't return to the level they were in the short term.

In the January Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook from the USDA there is suggestion of a slow ramp-up of live hog imports.

Canadian live hogs are expected to increase nine percent this year to about six million head. Before COOL legislation, live hog imports peaked at about 10 million head. However, a surge is not expected because Canadian hog inventories have declined and the country is dealing with more local packer demand.

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