Lewis proposes COORS for Colorado beef – Country of Origin Recognition System
Beef Country Of Origin Recognition System
Concerning a requirement that a retailer indicate the country of origin of beef sold to the public.
The bill amends the ‘Colorado Food and Drug Act’ to require a retailer to indicate the country of origin for beef sold to the public. The bill only applies to retailers who sell beef that has not been manufactured, cured, smoked, cooked, or processed.
The bill authorizes the department of public health and environment to promulgate rules to implement the bill.
A Colorado rancher and legislator is working to give cattlemen and consumers in her state access to additional information about beef.
This isn’t the first time that Kimmi Lewis, Kim, Colo., has sponsored a bill to require labeling of beef in her state.
But this year’s bill is different and user-friendly, she believes.
HB 18-1043, the Beef Country of Origin Recognition System, or beef COORS bill will require retailers in her state to provide information about the origin of the beef they are selling.
Lewis said that because there is currently no federal country of origin labeling law, some beef is being marketed as USA beef when in fact it was derived from imported beef or cattle.
“After we lost COOL nationally, it seems like we just gave multinational packers the green light to bring in cheap beef from foreign countries, process it or cut it up and then label it product of the USA. We ranchers have been at the brunt of it and it’s time that gets stopped.”
Lewis said that last year when she sponsored a bill for state country of origin labeling for beef, her fellow legislators wanted to know if other states were doing anything similar. “We now know that North Dakota has a law on the books (CHAPTER 7-13-03 MARKS AND LABELS).
The second question legislators asked was, “Isn’t this a federal issue? You lost COOL on the national level, you can’t do it state by state.”
“I said, do you not know we have this little thing in Colorado called marijuana?”
Some independent retailers are already offering their customers verified beef from cattle born, raised and slaughtered in the USA, she said. “They told me that their consumers want it. They are buying beef from a reputable source that guarantees the origin of the beef.” These stores display simple placards made from a piece of typing paper, she said. “I’ve heard the argument that this will be expensive or difficult for retailers. I think those placards I’ve seen probably cost about 5 cents.” As far as the packers having the ability to share the origin information, Lewis said it’s already available. “Every carcass has information about the beef. They know where it comes from, where it’s been. They were doing it for several years (under the federal country of origin labeling law that was repealed in 2015), did they forget how to do it already?”
Lewis looks forward to gaining additional co-sponsors for the bill and expects a lively discussion on the topic in committee and on the floor.
She believes that if the bill becomes law, it will improve the market for Colorado cattle. “This bill will give consumers the ability to know what they are buying and it will drive the price of cattle back up where it belongs. We lost our market two or three years ago when we lost COOL.”
Some grocers and packers claim they provide a product equal in quality to guaranteed USA beef. “Ok, if you are proud of your product, let’s label it. Put your money where your mouth is, that’s what I always say.”
The ranchers from her district — the state’s largest district in terms of land mass — have asked her to bring this bill, and she expects support from them when it is heard in committee. Colorado allows remote testimony which she appreciates, and she believes many ranchers will take advantage of it to show their support for the bill when it is brought before committee, possibly as early as Jan. 29.
Lewis has talked to legislators from other states with the intent to propose similar legislation.
A bill discussed during the 2017 legislative session would have simplified the South Dakota law to require that retailers share country of origin labeling if they received it from their beef suppliers. The bill was defeated on the Senate floor. ❖