Meat Industry Aims to Keep Meat Labeling to a Minimum

meat, steak

The Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) is a labeling law which requires meat producers to include information about the source of animal products. These foods include fish, shellfish, and certain meats, including  muscle cuts. The regulations for fish and shellfish became effective in 2005, and the final rule for all products went into effect on March 2009. In May, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued a final rule on the implementation of the law to require that muscle cut meats include information about where the animal was born, raised and slaughtered. The new rule also removes the allowance for mixing muscle cuts from the U.S. and other countries. For example, the past labels were only required labels to state “Product of USA and Canada,” but now must specify, “Born in Canada, raised and slaughtered in the United States.”

Not everyone is happy with the new rule. The American Meat Institute (AMI) and seven other meat and livestock organizations filed a lawsuit on July 8, 2013 to stop the implementation of COOL. Filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the complaint states that the final rule violates the U.S. Constitution by compelling speech in the form of costly and detailed labels on meat products that do not directly advance a government interest. Under the Constitution commercial speech may be compelled only where it serves a substantial government interest.

Read more about antibiotics in livestock

The complaint also states that the 2013 regulation goes beyond the scope of the original rule, and does not provide food safety or public health benefit, but imposes costs that are estimated to be $192 million. The plaintiffs “intend to move for preliminary injunctive relief against implementation and enforcement of the COOL regulations,” according to the complaint.

The economic aspects of COOL

The website makes the connection between buying American made, or in the case of meat, American raised, products. “Just as Nutritional Information labels on food products show us how good they are for our health, we similarly need information labels on consumer products that show us how good they are for our economy,” the site claims. Consumers can’t purchase meat from American raised livestock without adequate information, and the COOL law “solves this problem” by giving consumers a “clearer picture of where their dollars are headed and who their money supports.”

Read more about reading food labels

The COOL law is not a traceability or food safety program, as the USDA states on its website. However, the COOL law is about giving consumers more information. Or as the USDA puts it, “The COOL law requires retailers to notify their customers of the country of origin for all commodities covered under this law.”

Photo Credit: soyculto

By Gina-Marie Cheeseman| July 14, 2013
Categories:  Eat

About the Author

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer armed with a passion for healthy living and a degree in journalism. Hailing from the dry, sunny Central San Joaquin Valley, she hasn't let the heat fry her brain!

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