The grocery store can’t even tell you what *country* their beef & pork is from

In 2016, industrial beef companies — who control over 80% of the beef market in the United States — successfully lobbied to remove the Country of Origin Labeling requirements from packaging.

In plain English, this means that beef and pork sellers in the United States aren’t even required to tell you what country the beef and pork you buy came from.

Here's the problem. Everyone selling meat uses stock art photos of small farms and says things like “thoughtfully sourced,” “farm fresh” and “we work with family farms in the USA” — even if the vast majority of the meat they sell is, in fact, raised overseas in factory-like conditions, in desert climates where natural grasses don't grow, using inferior breeds eating low-quality grass pellets, before being shipped to the USA at industrial scale. Meat from a meat broker.

Adding insult to injury, it’s maddening to discover that, in fact, beef from cattle which were born, raised and slaughtered overseas, can legally be labeled as “Product of USA,” as long as the final step of slicing into steaks and packaging happens in the states.

Such cattle are trucked from “cow/calf operations” to massive, concentrated feedlots where all traceability back to the ranch is lost. By the time it’s been processed at scale, packaged, sorted and distributed through brokers, nobody has any idea where it was from in the first place.

Retailers aren't required to even tell you what country your beef is from.

Even at high-end grocery stores, the person behind the meat counter typically can’t tell you which farm(s) the meat came from — let alone what country it came from. The added complexity and cost of such traceability is exactly why industry lobbied to remove Country of Origin Label requirements in the first place.

Prior to this, one pound packs of Costco organic ground beef used to list no fewer than 5 countries... on a single pound of ground beef. Think about that.

costco beef with country of origin label required

This is insane. We deserve better.

For better beef and pork that avoids such shenanigans, always look for the farm’s name, location and background information. And try Crowd Cow.

Harlow Cattle Company
Jacob, our Merchandising Manager, cooking up some craft beef at Harlow Cattle Company Ranch in Spanaway, Washington