Retailers recently became required to provide specific country-of-origin information for muscle cuts of beef, chicken, pork, lamb, and goat. Drawing from the consumer inference and activation theory literatures, hypotheses are offered regarding how consumers use country-of-origin labeling (COOL) to draw inferences related to specific product attributes and how these inferences, in turn, lead to differences in mediation effects for purchase intentions. Results from a pilot study and two experiments reveal that consumers are more likely to purchase meat when it is identified as a U.S. product. Furthermore, the relative strength of the mediating effects of perceived food safety, taste, and freshness differs as expected. The authors show how the direct and indirect effects of the country-of-origin disclosure are attenuated by the presentation of objective information about the meat processing systems of competing countries. Given the recently mandated COOL disclosures, results have important implications for food retailers, members of the supply chain, and consumers.
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