Battle over US COOL laws

by Editor fleischwirtschaft.com
Tuesday, April 29, 2014
Photo: Michael Loeper / pixelio.de

One of the biggest battles facing US cattle producers and the beef industry is the fight over mandatory Country of Origin Labelling (COOL) laws.

The controversial rules were introduced last year, compelling more stringent and transparent labelling to better inform consumers about the authenticity of meat products, like beef. Under the COOL rules, meat retailers have a mandatory requirement to list the country where an animal was born, raised and slaughtered in, to produce a meat cut.

Previously, the rules only enforced labelling on the meat cut that nominated the different country or countries of origin, preceded by the phrase, "Product of". The 2013 regulation also eliminated a previous allowance in the rules which permitted "commingling" of cuts from animals of different origins - but processed on the same day - under an identical label.

The new labelling rules have sparked ongoing legal action in the US District Court, in addition to an international trade dispute via the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

The American Meat Institute (AMI) - a large and powerful trade association representing livestock producers, feedlot operators and meat packers - has challenged the new rules and moved for a preliminary injunction halting their enforcement. That action is being supported by the large National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) amid concerns the WTO has already ruled that the COOL laws make the US non-compliant with international trade obligations.

The AMI has argued the compulsion to label and disclose which country the animal was born, raised and slaughtered in, is in violation of its First Amendment right of free speech.
 
But the NCBA's stance is at odds with the US Cattlemen's Association (USCA) which has backed the USDA's defence of the District Court action to allow COOL to continue. USCA president Jon Wooster said his association started in March 2007 and represented small and medium-sized cow producers and small independent feedlots in Washington DC.
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