Our health: what’s the beef?

ChristinaSince 2009, all meat sold in the U.S. included labels informing consumers where the animal was born, raised and slaughtered.

But in late December, Congress repealed the law that requires Country of Origin Labeling, otherwise known as COOL. The next time you bite into steak, you may be unknowingly consuming an animal that was raised in Canada, Mexico, or beyond. While beef and pork packaging no longer must comply with COOL rules, chicken and lamb must still be labeled.

In a time when American consumers are asking for more information on their food packages, this latest move creates difficulties for people who want to make informed buying decisions.

CM meatThe 2002 move by Congress to require labels on meat was prompted by fears of “mad cow” disease from imported cattle. The labels weren’t on most packages until 2009, due to delays initiated by the meat industry.

Repeal became inevitable after the World Trade Organization (WTO) imposed $1 billion in retaliatory import tariffs against U.S. if the rule was not overturned. Consumer groups are criticizing Congress due to the decision to repeal the law for ground meat and pork, along with the fresh cuts of meat that were the original subject of WTO concerns.

So what’s a consumer to do? Amid concerns about food safety, sustainability and support for domestic farmers, a reported 87 percent of Americans say they want COOL labeling.

“Some people just want to spend their dollars closer to home,” says Patty Lovera, assistant director of Food & Water Watch, which supports COOL. “But there are also countries that we take products from that have had problems with mad cow disease and foot and mouth disease. Some folks might look at that (information) and think this is a risk, but how are they supposed to know if it’s not labeled?”

In addition to safety issues, consumers are becoming more aware of the impact their spending has on the communities where they reside. Mitchell Lind, from Taylor’s Market explains that when consumers make the decision to buy local meat, “they are directly putting money back into the community, and that makes a big difference in local economies.”

Luckily, South Sacramento residents have several options when it comes to local meat vendors.

Taylor’s Market on Freeport Blvd boasts a wide selection of grass-fed, California raised beef and pork, plus other meats. Nestled in a corner near the Freeport light rail station, and situated between South Sac and downtown, it’s clear from the moment you walk in that the staff are knowledgeable about their products, and proud of the quality of food they offer.

It should be noted that, while the price of Taylor’s meat may be a little higher than you’d typically pay at a conventional grocer, you can be sure that you are getting a top of the line product.

Raley’s and Bel-Air markets are a convenient option for those looking for an affordable way to shop local. Store manager Koen Vermeylen assures shoppers that all meat sold at Raley’s and Bel-Air is born, raised and harvested in the U.S. The stores can be found at various locations in the Sacramento area, including Florin Road and South Land Park Drive and Freeport.

Nugget Markets is another local option for those living in the Meadowview/Pocket Area, with a store on Florin Road at Greenhaven. Nugget offers meat from Harris Ranch, which is located in the heart of the Central Valley.

The meat counter is well-stocked with a variety of cuts, including pre-marinated meat. Butchers are available seven days a week and offer can “hand-cut product to your specifications, as well as advise on proper cooking techniques, times and temperatures,” the Woodland-based store notes.

So, while it may be more difficult now for shoppers to distinguish local meat from imported, Sacramento residents can rest assured they have options when it comes to the origin and quality of their meats.

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