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Poll finds 93% of consumers want labeling on meat

View results of the October 2010 national poll by the Consumer Reports National Research Center: Country of Origin Labeling Poll (PDF). Read CU’s letter to the WTO, regarding U.S. country of origin labeling requirements below.
Mr. Christian Häberli, Ph.D.
United States – Certain Country of Origin
Labelling (COOL) Requirements
World Trade Organization
Centre William Rappard
Rue de Lausanne 154
1211 Geneva 21
Dear Mr. Chairperson:
Consumers Union, the non-profit publisher of Consumer Reports, is a strong supporter of country of origin labeling (COOL) for food products as it is clear that consumers overwhelmingly desire information about the origin of the foods they purchase. We have long supported mandatory COOL in the United States as a means to provide consumers with additional information on which to base their purchasing decisions, and we are particularly interested in the outcome of the WTO dispute regarding U.S. country of origin labeling requirements. As the Panel considers the arguments of the United States, Canada, and Mexico in this dispute, we would like to provide additional information concerning consumer expectations on the labeling of meat with multiple countries of origin.
Results from a nationally representative, telephone poll of more than 1000 US adults, conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center in October 2010 indicates that most consumers (93%) would prefer to have a country of origin label on the meat that they buy. [1] These results underscore our previous poll findings from 2008 indicating that 95% of US adults agree that country-of-origin labeling for products should always be available at the point of purchase. [2]
October 2010 poll results
When asked: Suppose a cow is born and raised in Mexico, and then sent to the U.S. to be fattened for two months, slaughtered and sold. If you saw the meat from this animal in your supermarket, which of the following labels would you prefer to have?

  • 47% Product of U.S. and Mexico
  • 25% Product of Mexico
  • 21% Product of U.S.
  • 1% Other*
  • 6% Don’t know

*Verbatims for “Other”:

  • Don’t care as long as it’s USDA approved
  • I wouldn’t have it
  • I’m a vegetarian
  • Not labeled
  • Origin not of U.S.
  • Raise my own animals
  • Raised in Mexico
  • Wouldn’t want anything on label

It is clear from these results that consumers want to know where their meat comes from and want labels on products at the point of purchase that reflect all of the countries in which the animal was born, raised, and/or slaughtered. While 21% of consumers would prefer a “Product of the U.S.” label on the meat product, an even greater 25% preferred a “Product of Mexico” label. Most significant, nearly half (47%) of consumers would prefer a multiple country of origin label that would reflect all of the countries that the animal had been born, raised and slaughtered.
We appreciate the opportunity to share these important results with you and would be happy to answer any questions the panel may have.
Urvashi Rangan, Ph.D.
Director, Technical Policy
Consumers Union, non-profit, independent publisher Consumer Reports
101 Truman Avenue
Yonkers, New York 10703

[1] See attached document for full 2010 poll results
[2] http://www.greenerchoices.org/pdf/foodpoll2008.pdf