Conducted by the University of Arkansas, US consumers were given country of origin only and asked to share opinions on food safety, taste and freshness of meat from 10 countries – Mexico, India, Brazil, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Russia, Thailand, China, the US and Canada. The survey found that participants perceived meat from the US and Canada to be safer than meat from other countries.
In a second study, one group received beef and chicken labelled with the US as country of origin, and a second group received beef and chicken labelled as originating in Mexico. The participants of this study preferred meat from the US.
A third study then revealed that when consumers were told that meat-processing standards in Mexico were similar to those in the US, purchase intentions for US meat were no longer higher.
“The country-of-origin requirement appears to provide consumers with additional information that has both direct and indirect effects on purchase intentions,” said Scot Burton, professor of marketing in the Sam M Walton College of Business. “The requirement impacts inferred attributes, meaning that meat products from the US are perceived to be safer, tastier and fresher than meat products from Mexico. Of course, these attributes, in turn, have positive effects on purchase decisions.”
COOL was introduced to the US as part of the 2002 and 2008 Farm Bills, with the intention of providing customers with information to help them make informed shopping decisions. However, the implementation of the labelling requirements has cost an estimated $100 million, while Canada and Mexico have claimed the law discriminates against their producers.
These claims from Canada and Mexico led the US government to begin repeal proceedings for COOL. On 10 June 2015, the House of Congress passed the Country of Origin Labelling Amendments Act of 2015, which repeals requirements for chicken, pork and beef retailers to inform consumers of the country of origin at the final point of sale. This goes next to the Senate for consideration.