Are you worried that your animal-based products come from countries where there aren’t strict health and safety regulations? If so, what can you do about it?
After the COOL laws were repealed in 2016, you’re left without an easy method to ascertain where the animal in question was born, raised, and slaughtered. And because of that, finding out that information has become even more essential.
This article will go over the importance of knowing where is the source of your meat. We’ll provide you with some basic information about why this information might be valuable, as well as several tips on how to buy animal-based products that you know are safe for you and your family.
Is it Really Important to Know Where My Meat Comes From?
Knowing the origin of your meat can be vital for several reasons. First, you need to know whether it was imported or if it is sourced from domestic farms. If it’s imported, you’ll probably need to know where it was born, raised, and slaughtered to be fully informed.
There are several reasons to do this. While most imported animal-based products come from countries with high safety standards such as Canada, Australia, or New Zealand, some can still arrive from countries with laxer protocols.
What Are COOL Labeling Laws?
Country of Origin Labeling, or COOL, is a set of laws that dictated that all animal-based products should have a clearly visible label that states where the animal was born, raised, and slaughtered. It was implemented in 2009 and then repealed in 2016.
Because those labels are no longer present on the meat that you buy, you need to pay closer attention to individual manufacturers, while also finding other ways to track where your product comes from. Our Tips section should cover the most common methods.
Benefits of Knowing the Origin of the Meat You're Buying
When you know the country of origin, you should have a clearer idea of what the safety standards are. Most countries have laws and regulatory agencies that oversee the whole process, which makes the final product much safer than it would otherwise be.
On the other hand, countries without these laws could have products that, best case scenario, aren’t as good, or, worst-case scenario, harmful to your health.
Apart from the country of origin, you should also know whether the animal in question was raised in a factory or on a farm. Factory-raised livestock aren’t raised as humanely and they’re given antibiotics and, in rarer cases, growth hormones, which can have detrimental effects on human health, as well.
Another aspect that you need to pay attention to is the environmental impact of the whole raising process. Farm-raised livestock generally has less of an impact than what a factory might have. Factories and industrial slaughterhouses could produce additional waste, as well. All of that can have an impact on the quality of meat, as well.
Questions That You Need to Ask Your Butcher
One of the ways to get answers to these questions is to ask your butcher. They will usually know what breed the animal is, where it was raised, how old it was, did it roam, or was it trapped in a factory, where was it slaughtered and what were the conditions there.
Dangers and Risks in the Meat Industry
While plenty of people know about growth hormones and antibiotics, there are also other hidden dangers these producers could take that could pose a danger to your health.
For example, they might inject water into the meat to make it more tender and to increase its weight. The problem is, the water is rich in phosphates, which can lead to food-related intolerances or even allergies, which could, at a surface glance, look like food poisoning.
Tips in Buying Meat
Buy Locally-Raised Meat
While this should provide you with the freshest animal-based products from local farms, there are certain pitfalls you should pay attention to. First of all, the Locally-Raised label has become another meaningless marketing slogan that doesn’t have to mean anything and can be slapped on any piece of meat. That’s why, ideally, you should visit the farms themselves and see the conditions there for yourself.
This is another common label that is used for marketing purposes. To make sure that the product is truly organic, you should look for either a USDA label that says “Process Verified” or a GFSI (Global Food Safety Initiative) stamp. Those should ensure that the product is truly organic and natural.
When you’re cooking from scratch, maybe you wouldn’t have enough confidence to try these things. However, when you’re following a recipe, it’s easy to take that risk and see what happens.
The easiest way to check the quality of the cut is to perform a visual inspection yourself. There are plenty of factors you should pay attention to, but most of them will vary by the type of meat you’re buying. If you’re looking for an ideal steak, for example, you should pay attention to the marbling, among other things.
Look for USDA Certifications
Besides providing a certificate for basic safety precautions, USDA also has a wide variety of labels for those manufacturers that go beyond that. They have special certification programs for poultry, pork, lamb, beef, and veal, so if a product carries one of these labels, you can be sure that the quality is at a much higher level.
Verify Marketing Claims
While some terms originally labeled specific processes or methods, they have lost their meaning along the way due to marketing saturation. After all, you can call anything Organic, Natural, Green, Sustainable, or any other marketing buzzword. That’s why, when you encounter something like that, you should also check for any accompanying certifications that prove their claims.
Generally, most meat is imported from a select few countries, such as Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, or the United Kingdom, among many others. Of course, these countries aren’t the only ones that export their products to the US. To find an up-to-date list of all the safe countries, you can check out USDA’s website.
Are there American meats that are banned abroad?
Yes, there are meat products made in America that have been banned around the world since 1993. The bans mostly apply to factory-raised beef, pork, lamb, or poultry, as they can be treated with growth hormones and antibiotics and possibly even washed with chemicals to wipe away any traces of the unsanitary conditions that they are raised in.
Is it necessary to know where all our food comes from?
Yes, for several reasons. When you know where your food comes from, you know how long it had to travel to get to you, which can help you determine whether any potentially harmful preservatives were used to keep it fresh. When you’re buying locally-sourced ingredients, you also help farms in your area, all while reducing your carbon footprint.
Even though the COOL laws were repealed, there are still ways you can find out where your steaks are coming from. You can check for any USDA certificates or carefully inspect the meat yourself, or you can go to your local farms to buy it directly from the source.
That way, you will be helping your local farmers while not giving money to industrial farming that uses more questionable methods of raising their livestock. When you buy locally, you will likely get grass-fed meat that is free of growth hormones or antibiotics.
All of that is also reflected in the quality of the steaks themselves. And while that might change might come at an increased cost, in the end, it should be worth it for all the listed reasons.