Country of origin labelling (or COOL) has been legally mandated for some meat and processed food products in the USA since 2002 and the UK is currently considering a similar law. But what is country of origin labelling and why is it so important?
As the name suggests, country of origin labelling is the practice of using labelling to show where products originated. With meat-based products, this doesn’t simply refer to the country where the meat was processed, but rather to where the animal from which the meat comes was born or reared.
Part of the reason why so much importance is placed on country of origin labelling is simply that it’s what customers want. Given a clear choice, many consumers prefer to buy meat that was sourced in their own country; as such, they value labelling that makes this decision easier.
Consumers’ desire to buy their own country’s produce over that of other nations may have a number of different origins, depending on the individual. They may wish to support local producers or they may simply want to buy the freshest product possible. They may even have ethical concerns over the lack of laws in some countries to govern the treatment of animals that are being raised for their meat.
The Importance of Country of Origin Labelling
Country of origin labelling can also help protect customers from health risks. If a health scare emerges about meat originating in a particular country (for example, if an outbreak of BSE or ‘mad cow disease’ occurs), retailers will know at a glance which products they need to remove from their shelves. Alternatively, customers will be able to look at the labelling and make an informed decision about whether to purchase the product themselves.
Due to its consumer-friendly nature, country of origin labelling is also likely to earn customer-loyalty for producers and retailers who make it a prominent part of their packaging.
Design and Order Labels Online
As labels can be designed and ordered online, adding country of origin labelling to a product at the packaging stage is both easy and cost-effective. The main obstacle to the process is the theoretical need to segregate livestock for different countries when they are held at the same plant. However, this could easily be circumvented by a simple paint-based tagging system (such as that used by farmers to differentiate male and female sheep).
With only a few minor obstacles to implementation and clear advantages for both retailers and consumers, country of origin labelling is likely to see widespread adoption in the UK, just as it continues to become an increasingly important part of US packaging.