HELENA – A bill introduced in the state legislature this week would hold retailers accountable when it comes to labeling meat products.
Senator Al Olszewski (R- Kalispell) introduced Senate Bill 206, which would require country-of-origin placarding for beef and pork retailers in Montana.
“This is a creative way to come around the World Trade Organization’s ruling. What in essence this does is, it requires a placard in the window where you can buy your beef and pork,” Olszewski said.
The placards will list one of three options:
- Meat that is born, raised and processed in the United States
- Meat that is processed outside of the United States
- Meat that is only processed in the United States
Currently, federal regulations allow beef and pork imported from other countries to be labeled a product of the United States even if the meat is only processed or packaged here.
Processors have to provide this information for all other meats except beef and pork.
Retailers or processors will have to placard the labels on the meat locker or the glass of a refrigerator section.
“This is one of those bills that causes passion. There are multiple stakeholders in this bill. We’ve tried our best to balance it, but I’m sure we are going to see people coming from the consumers with their right to know where their food comes from,” Olszewski said.
“There will be people coming from retail or processing who this adds a burden to them. They’re going to probably come against it opposed,” he added.
The senator said it is a step in the right direction in making consumers more aware of the product they are buying.
“With the advances of 21st-century technology, people can take fat cells, cells for beef or pork or poultry and they can grow it in a cellular culture and they can create a meat-like substance. We want to make sure that it is known and labeled and defined as something other than traditional meat,” Olszewski said.
If passed, the law would be implemented by Montana’s Department of Labor and Industry. It would require no cost or investment from ranchers.
-Elizabeth Transue reporting for MTN News