Compulsory CoOL not cool


Labour’s Food Safety spokesperson Damien O’Connor is introducing a Supplementary Order Paper to the Food Bill, requiring mandatory country of origin labelling (CoOl) for food.

“New Zealanders want clear information about their food. They should have the same information and protection our Australian neighbours receive about their food.

“Introducing mandatory CoOL would be a good start.

Compulsion is rarely a good start.

Some, maybe many, consumers do want to know where food comes from and it’s not hard to find it on most food in most supermarkets now.

CoOl’s not hard to do for single ingredient items like fresh fruit, vegetables and meat and it’s happening voluntarily in response to consumer demand.

If it’s not happening fast enough or on enough products then consumers can let retailers know directly – or indirectly by choosing products that are labelled over those that aren’t.

CoOl is more difficult, and expensive, on multi- ingredient products.

Imposing mandatory CoOL on them would add significant costs.

CoOl isn’t a food safety issue, it’s a consumer preference one and action on it should be taken by consumers not politicians.


Don’t need govt to be CoOl


The furore over Australian supermarket chains shutting out New Zealand products and produce has refuelled the cries for compulsory country of origin labelling (CoOL).

I like to know where food I buy comes from and it does influence what I buy.

But there’s no need for the government to get involved.

C0OL isn’t difficult for fresh produce and single ingredient products.

The supermarkets I usually shop at already have CoOL for most of their food, where they can.

They’re responding to customer demand and if it’s good for business they’ll keep doing it.

If it’s not good for business they and their customers would lose from government interference.

Agitating for compulsion is just one many examples of where, if the government is the answer, the wrong question was asked.


No need for compulsion


Beef + Lamb NZ will be labelling Australian meat so consumers know where it comes from.

That’s a good idea to help consumers make informed choices about what they buy and eat.

But the Green Party are using this to support their campaign for compulsory country of origin labelling (COOL).

Compulsion should be the very last step.

Consumers are letting food retailers and producers know they want to know where their food comes from and more are doing it.

It’s not difficult with single ingredient food and therefore shouldn’t be expensive.

This is the market at work. Consumers are asking for COOL and they’re getting it.

Companies which manufacture local produce are missing an opportunity to make the most of a growing demand for local food if they don’t do it.

As more companies label their food as locally produced it will become obvious that food not so labelled probably isn’t.

It might not be happening as quickly as some would like, but COOL is happening and there’s no need to make it compulsory.

Legislation should be last resort


Labour’s Food Safety spokesperson Damien O’Connor says Country of Origin labelling should be included in the Food Bill.

Legislation should be a last resort.

Why start there when consumer pressure is a much better first step?

If we want CoOl we should be demanding it from supermarkets.

Customer pressure worked in getting rid of the charge on plastic bags, why wouldn’t it work for CoOl?

I like to know where my food comes from and sometimes, maybe even often, choose not to buy fresh produce if I can’t seen where it came from. When I can spot the country of origin it can be the deciding factor in my choice of which product to buy.

That’s the market and customer preference at work, it doesn’t need political interference.

It isn’t difficult to put CoOL on fresh produce and other single ingredient food but multi-ingredient foods are much harder to label which is why statements like made in New Zealand from local and imported ingredients is common.

I trust our food standards and it’s enough to know that something is made here, I don’t need to know the country of origin of every single ingredient.

Legislating to make it compulsory would add complexity and cost. If people on low incomes are already struggling to make ends meet it would be stupid to make food more expensive when there are better ways to get CoOl, if that’s what customers want.




Rural round-up


Gisborne throws support behind MIE – Anne Calcinai:

The Meat Industry Excellence (MIE) group departed Gisborne this week with overwhelming support for change.

More than 150 farmers attended the meeting on Wednesday and became the fourth group to support the MIE group.

Farmers in Gisborne voted unanimously to support a mandate for change, based on the six principles outlined by MIE.

MIE executive chairman Richard Young said it was clear from the meeting farmers understood they needed to change their behaviour and that commitment to meat companies on a longer-term basis was essential. . .

Kahungunu takes giant step into farming:

 Chairman Ngahiwi Tomoana says, “Ngāti Kahungunu have taken the first step to diversify its interests from Fisheries to Farming.”

 The Kahungunu Asset Holding Company on behalf of its shareholder Ngāti Kahungunu Iwi Incorporated has completed a Sale and Purchase Agreement for the Tautane Station, owned by the Herrick family for over 120 years. The iwi is pleased to have been the successful bidder of this historic farm located south of Porangahau.

It is the first major real estate investment that the iwi has made and is a template for further land acquisitions. This is part of the iwi’s ‘gate to plate’ strategy to build on relationshps in the high end growing Asian market that’s demanding high quality food product direct from the producer to the supplier. Over two years the iwi has investigated orchards, dairy farms and other commercial properties, but Tautane meets all the iwi’s economic indicators covering environmental, social, educational, historical and cultural objectives. . .

Steak of Origin champions do it again:

Chris and Karren Biddles from Northland have been named Grand Champions in the 2013 Beef + Lamb New Zealand Steak of Origin competition.

After winning in 2007 and taking the Producer of the Decade title in 2012, the Te Kopuru couple have now taken out the 2013 grand prize with their Angus/Jersey beef sirloin entry.

The competition to find the country’s most tender and tasty steak, sponsored by Zoetis, culminated in the Grand Final at the Beef Expo in Feilding last night.

The 20 finalists were tasted by a panel of judges, comprising three leading chefs. Head judge and chef Graham Hawkes says the quality of the steak on show was exceptional. . .

New hope for new farmers:

FARMERS WHO have joined the Scottish industry in the 10 years since subsidy entitlements were set in historical stone can now claim a share of £2 million worth of extra funding from the Scottish Goverment.

Rural Affairs CabSec Richard Lochhead said this week: “It is crucial that we do all we can to help introduce new entrants to farming – they are fresh blood to the rural economy.”

But new entrants themselves, at risk of seeming ungrateful, pointed out that £2m, shared between the 1000-plus Scottish farmers currently excluded from the historical subsidy system, paled into insignificance next to the average SFP payment their neighbours received annually. . .

Dairy Boards don’t have standing to challenge pizza kits

Canada’s watchdog on cross-border trade says it can’t rule on a company importing pizza topping kits made with cheaper U.S. mozzarella, if the request for a ruling doesn’t come from another importer.

Canada’s 10 provincial dairy marketing boards, under the not-for-profit name BalanceCo, had sought a ruling from the Canadian International Trade Tribunal (CITT) during a appeal hearing last month in Ottawa, against imports of pre-packaged pizza toppings combining shredded mozzarella and sliced pepperoni from the U.S.

The packs were recently developed for import into Canada from the U.S. by J. Cheese Inc., an Ontario distributor, for a “particular customer” — namely the Toronto-based Pizza Pizza chain, which operates almost 700 Pizza Pizza and Pizza 73 outlets across Canada.

The packs are now classified for tariff purposes as a “food preparation” and thus aren’t subject to the tariff rate quotas (TRQs) imposed on dairy imports under Canada’s supply-managed dairy marketing system. . .

Canada prepares to target U.S. goods in COOL spat:

Canada will put forward a list of U.S. products it wants to target in retaliation for U.S. country-of-origin meat labels if last-minute changes to U.S. label regulations don’t prove satisfactory, Canadian officials said on Friday.

The dispute stems from a 2009 U.S. requirement that retail outlets put the country of origin on labels on meat and other products, a move the government said was in an effort to give U.S. consumers more information about their food.

Canada and Mexico complained that the mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL) rule caused a decline in U.S. imports of their cattle and pigs, and the World Trade Organization has ordered the United States to make changes by May 23. . .

Farmhouse succession – Paul Spackman:

It is a significant and symbolic step in the handing over of responsibility of any family farm business when a son or daughter takes over occupancy of the main farmhouse from their parents.

All too often, however, it is a process that hasn’t been planned well enough and is perhaps done hastily out of necessity, rather than as part of a considered succession plan.

This can strain family relationships and in some cases jeopardise the future viability of the business, especially if non-farming relatives have to be paid off and parts of the farm broken up or sold, says farm consultant Siân Bushell. . .




You don’t have to force us


A quarter of all light bulbs in Otago homes are energy efficient and 84% of homes in New Zealand are using eco bulbs.

That’s the findings of a study conducted for the Electricity Commission.

Commission chairman David Caygill said changing all the old bulbs across the country could save householders $245 million a year.

“Most New Zealanders now recognise that inefficient lighting has been adding greatly to household power bills.”

Cost savings were the main reason for switching bulbs as an energy-efficient one used 80% less electricity and lasted six times as long as a standard bulb.

Who would have thought that people might work out that saving power saved money without the state forcing them into doing it?

The people behind mandatory country of origin labelling  (MCoOL) should take note. They think:

Mandatory country of origin labelling (MCoOL) is the only way to ensure the consumer gets to make the right choice for them, whether their purchase decision is based on product origin, the price, safety concerns, what the kids like, nutrition needs or just plain old flavour preference.

I can see what CoOL, mandatory or not, has to do with product origin and safety. But it’s likely to increase prices and has nothing to do with what the kids like, nutrition needs and flavour preference.

I like to know where the food I buy comes from and rarely buy something unless I’m satisfied about its country of origin. But that’s no reason to make CoOL mandatory.

If consumers want CoOL it’s up to us to let retailers know. Consumer pressure persuaded Food Stuffs to drop its plastic bag charge, it will also persuade them to have CoOL if enough of us stated demanding it.

There’s no need to force it on us. The bulb study shows most of us are quite capable of working out what’s best for us and acting on it.

P.S. – How’s this for a poll?

It’s from the CoOL website and while the rest of the page talks about mandatory labelling, the poll doesn’t.

 I’d answer yes to all the questions but if the final question had mandatory in it I’d answer no.

We’ll keep you up to date with any progress on our campaign.

 A quick poll

Have you ever considered where your food comes from?

yes  no

Would you like to know where your food comes from?

yes  no

Would Country of Origin food labelling be likely to affect your choice of purchase?

yes  no

Do you think Country of Origin labelling is a good idea for New Zealand?

yes  no




Buy local campaign conflicts with free trade


The headline in The Age says ‘Buy Australian’ and free market theory aren’t in conflict.

That statement is wrong and so is the opinion piece which follows because it confuses a buy local campaign with country of origin labelling.

Buy American, Buy Australian or Buy Any Nation campaigns work on the basis of a simple, first principle concept. Consumers do not know the country of origin of the products they are buying. The first principle of a Buy My Country’s products campaign is to tell the consumer at the retail outlet where the produce or consumer products come from.

Country of origin labelling might persuade people to buy local, but that is not its primary aim.

The only aim of buy local campaigns is to persuade consumers to purchase domestic produce and products rather than imported ones and that is definitely in conflict with free trade.

Country of origin labelling isn’t always easy to do, but knowing where products come from enables consumers to make informed choices. That’s very different from telling them – often erroneously – that it’s better to buy local.

COOL gives information, buy local seeks to persuade consumers that domestic produce and products are better than imported ones.

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