While there's never a good time for a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, Canada's case comes at a bad time for U.S. country-of-origin labeling opponents.

"COOL proponents will try to use this as a validation of the benefits," says Steve Meyer, Paragon Economics. "COOL doesn't do that much to help a BSE case, because it doesn't include traceability to determine what farm an affected animal came from, and what other animals it may have had contact with."

Still, it's hard to deny that, in this particular case, labeling meat from the United States versus Canada would not have had some value in the consumer's mind. That doesn't necessarily mean that COOL would increase food safety.

"Most beef imported into the United States goes into foodservice," says Charlie Arnot, spokesperson for Premium Standard Farms. "If COOL is really a food-safety or consumer-right-to-know issue, why is foodservice excluded from the regulations?"