USDA Has Issued New Proposed Rule for Country of Origin Labeling

USDA has issued a new proposed rule for Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) – and it’s good! As background: COOL was mandated in the 2008 Farm Bill thanks to the work of a coalition of organizations representing farmers and consumers. But the rules implementing COOL for meat were poorly written and allowed meat packers to label cuts as “product of the USA, Mexico and/or Canada,” for example. Cuts from different countries could be commingled, and the result was that consumers still had no idea where their meat was coming from. The World Trade Organization found that the rules violated international trade requirements.

The USDA’s new proposed rule addresses the WTO’s objection that the rules were too vague and misleading. The proposed rule requires meat packers to specify the production steps of birth, raising, and slaughter of the animal from which the meat is derived that took place in each country listed on the origin designation. In addition, the proposed rule would eliminate the allowance for any commingling of covered products of different origins.

This will mean more work for meat packers. It also means that American consumers will be able to choose whether or not they want to buy American-raised meat. And American ranchers may finally see the premiums for their products that they hoped to see from COOL.

We will send out an action alert soon, letting folks know how they can comment to support the proposed rule.

The proposed rule is posted at
http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/getfile?dDocName=STELPRDC5103078