US meat industry loses Country of Origin Labelling appeal

By Eleanor Mackay

- Last updated on GMT

Meat will now have to state were the animal was born, raised and slaughtered
Meat will now have to state were the animal was born, raised and slaughtered

Related tags American meat institute United states Meat

US meat companies have lost their bid to suspend new country of origin labelling (COOL) legislation coming into force.

The new legislation requires muscle cuts of meat to be labelled with the location where the animal was born, raised and slaughtered. The American Meat Institute (AMI), which represents meat companies such as Tyson Foods and Hormel Foods Corp, argued the new labelling requirements exceeded regulators’ responsibility, violated free speech and were of no real value to the customer.

However, Judge Stephen F Williams of the US Court of Appeals for the district of Columbia wrote that the labelling "enables a consumer to apply patriotic or protectionist criteria in the choice of meat"​ and "enables one who believes that United States practices and regulation are better at assuring food safety than those of other countries, or indeed the reverse, to act on that premise".

The new legislation is an update of the 2009 version issued by United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Canada and Mexico challenged COOL regulations successfully in 2008, arguing that they significantly reduced meat exports to the US, and reduced prices being offered for their exports. Previous regulation did not require explicit identification for the country of origin for each separate production process.

This meant meat producers could use a simple label for meat processed from animals with different countries of origin on a single production day, a practice known as commingling. For example, companies could use the label ‘Product of the USA and Mexico’, whereas produce is now required to be labelled: ‘born, raised and slaughtered in the United States’.

The AMI argued that the legislation would increase production costs as they were now forced to segregate meats according to their born, raised and slaughtered destinations, as opposed to mixing meats from different locations. "We disagree strongly with the court’s decision and believe that the rule will continue to harm livestock producers and the industry with little benefit to consumers,"​ says AMI interim president and chief executive James H Hodges. "At this point we are evaluating our options moving forward".

The new legislation has divided the meat industry, as some farming groups have supported the new COOL measure, arguing that it allows the consumer to easily find domestically sourced meat.

Related topics Meat

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