The meat in your pork chop or hamburger may have come from halfway across the world, and thanks to the repeal of a popular law by Congress last week, you'll never know where.
The way meat is produced in the US is already highly shrouded in mystery: from corporations that to laws that prevent people from exposing what slaughterhouses even look like. But the new law introduces even more secrecy into American meat: We won't be told which country it originally came from any more.
According to the Associated Press, Congress at the end of 2015 repealed a labeling policy, the Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) law, that required retailers to explicitly state the country of origin on all red meat. In other words, beef and pork packages in the US will no longer be required to bear a label saying where the animal originally came from—meaning that consumers will have less information about the product they are buying.
The bill was called a "a holiday gift to the meatpacking industry from Congress," according to Food and Water Watch. The meat industry, particularly meatpackers who buy Mexican cattle to sell the meat in the US, had long opposed the law, saying that it made it harder for them to do business and market foreign meat. The law was first enacted in 2002, but because of meat industry lobbying, it wasn't made mandatory until 2009. Now, country-of-origin labelling not mandatory at all.
In a statement, National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson said that the repeal "completely undermine[s] the will of American consumers and producers."
"Year after year, Congress kowtows to well moneyed interests instead of standing up for consumers and family farmers by attaching unpopular provisions—like repeal of COOL—to must-pass appropriations bills," he said. "This year's COOL rider is yet another example of the inability of Congress to legislate in the public interest."
Some consumer advocacy groups did praise one part of the year-end spending bill that repealed COOL. Lawmakers did not, as was feared, block the mandatory labeling of genetically modified ingredients.
Meanwhile, about 8 to 10 percent of beef consumed in the US is imported from other countries. Thanks to Congress, you'll probably never know when you've got a chunk of that imported meat—and what it saw before it made its way to your plate.