Thursday, January 22, 2009

Take Our Beef, Or Else!

The week before leaving office, former President Bush approved a 300% tariff hike on Roquefort cheese. The news caught my attention while riding the T. Dramatically, the Metro article suggested that in retaliation the EU may raise the tariff for US imports of Coca-Cola. While this seems a bit far-feteched, I had to wonder 'Why? Why did our government decide to place such an enormous tax on Roquefort, the infamous moldy, sheep's milk, inimitable creation?'  

Well, according to reports in Time, Huffington Post, and the UK's Guardian this political decision was made to punish the European Union (EU) for their refusal to import meat raised with artificial hormones and antibiotics, a restriction that dates back to 1989. Take that EU or more specifically, the French district of Lozeyron! No longer will Americans enjoy your delectable cheese because you refuse to import our potentially toxic meats! I mean really?! What may be the effect of such tariffs -- recipes left unfulfilled? Wisconsin (i.e., domestic) alternatives embraced? Roquefort-lover riots in protest?

This short announcement caught my eye because it sheds light on the huge influence that the meat industry has on US policy -- both domestic and international. The EU ban on beef imports was due to the untraditional methods used to raise the cattle (i.e., use of antibiotics and hormones to help the cows grow fatter, faster on a  corn, rather than grass-based,  diet). In fact, the International Trade Commission published a 2008 report on the current state of US beef exports, which details which countries and regions are not importing US beef and why.  

Anyway, it was an interesting story I had to share. For more on US Food Policy and developments in "BigAg" check out this US Food Policy blog out of Tufts University. It is a great blog!

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