There’s been quite a bit of publicity regarding Canada and Mexico's frustration over mandatory country of origin labeling (mCOOL) in the U.S. and their impending challenges to the law. That will play out as it will play out and, as we’ve learned in the U.S experience with Europe over the use of growth implants, that process will take years. And, even if they win, it doesn't mean the U.S. will have to remedy things in any substantive way.
From a producer standpoint the real concern is Canada's efforts to capitalize on mCOOL. It should be a warning sign for our cattle industry that the opportunity is real.
We've made strides in improving quality in U.S. beef products, but studies indicate that nearly 1 in 4 eating experiences are still unacceptable. That is a competitor marketer’s dream, as Canada historically has exported "upper" end product; that’s an advantage when compared to everything produced south of the Canada-U.S. border.
Being such a small percentage of the marketplace, Canadian product only has to appeal to a very select group. It doesn't have to be considered as “premium” to the vast majority of consumers in order to capitalize on the opportunity.
While New Zealand lamb is the often-used example, Certified Angus Beef, Certified Hereford Beef, Laura's Lean, and the host of others are just as appropriate. Separating yourself from the commodity mix is not an easy job, but it’s a far more attractive option. It will be interesting to see who ends up being a bigger supporter of mCOOL in 10 years, us or the Canadians.