New labels give shoppers information on where meat comes from

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

As he selected chicken for grilling Monday at Schnucks supermarket, Al Davisson didn't know that there's something new on the package he chose -- a notice that the chicken inside was raised in the U.S.

As of Monday, shoppers will have more information about where their food comes from under a new federal law requiring most fresh meats, along with some fruits, vegetables and other foods, to list where the food originated. In the case of meats, some labels will list where the animal was born, raised and slaughtered.

When selecting meat, price is usually the most important factor, Davisson said as he chose leg quarters with his daughter Alissa. "I've never really paid attention to where it comes from," he said.

But on reflection, he said it is important to know where food comes from. "When I think about it, it would matter to me because I try to buy things processed or made in the U.S.A."

The labeling law took effect for fruits and vegetables several months ago, Schnucks co-manager Jon Townsend said. The meat labeling began Monday, but Schnucks has been using new labels for several weeks, he said.

"We've been preparing for this for several months," Townsend said.

The meat labeling law applies to most fresh cuts of meat, Townsend said. The law exempts turkey, as well as ground meats or meat that is packaged with seasonings or in some other way made ready for cooking, he said.

The law does not apply to prepared meats such as cold cuts, sausage or canned meat products, Townsend said.

Each package at Schnucks will have a label stating the country of origin. Schnucks only sells fresh meat produced in the United States, Townsen said.

Schnucks manager Dennis Marchi said customers will see no difference in the store's offerings.

"Unless it means something to them, they will not notice anything," he said.

At Food Giant on Kingshighway, the store has posted notices above its meat detailing the origins. For beef, the sign on Monday said the offerings originated in Canada, the U.S.A. and Mexico. Over the chicken, the sign said the items came from U.S. producers.

Food Giant relies on its suppliers to make sure the meat is labeled properly when it arrives at the store, manager Mike Recker said. Individual cuts of meat are not labeled by country of origin, even though steaks and chops are cut in the store.

"It hasn't been a big hassle for us," Recker said.

Food safety groups have long lobbied for the policy, which was enacted by Congress as part of a wide-ranging farm bill last year.

It's also popular with ranchers in the northern part of the United States who compete with Canadian cattle producers.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack last month asked the meat industry to go beyond the new policy, which was written by the Bush administration, to be even more specific about where an animal was born, raised and slaughtered.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

rkeller@semissourian.com

388-3642

Pertinent addresses:

19 S. Kingshighway, Cape Girardeau, Mo.

1120 N. Kingshighway, Cape Girardeau, Mo.

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