USDA Issues Final Rule to Amend COOL
May 24, 2013

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a final rule to modify the labeling provisions for muscle-cut commodities covered under the Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) program. 
 
The final rule modifies the labeling provisions for muscle-cut covered commodities to require the origin designations to include information about where each of the production steps (i.e., born, raised, slaughtered) occurred and removes the allowance for commingling of muscle cuts. For instance, a steer born in Canada, but raised and slaughtered in the United States would be labeled effectively in that manner, "Born in Canada, Raised and Slaughtered in the United States." For all domestic animals, the label would change from "Product of the U.S." to "Born, Raised and Slaughtered in the U.S." 
 
In June 2012, the Appellate Body of the World Trade Organization (WTO) affirmed an earlier WTO panel decision finding that the United States' COOL requirements for certain meat commodities discriminated against Canadian and Mexican livestock imports and thus, were inconsistent with the WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade. The United States had until May 23 to come into compliance with the WTO ruling on COOL. 
 
The American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) filed comments in support of these changes in an effort to keep labeling mandatory for American lamb. 
 
"Since currently and historically there are relatively few lambs imported into the United States, specifying the born, raised and slaughtered production practices on labels should not have a significant effect on lamb retailing or the processing industry cost," commented Clint Krebs, ASI president. "In the case of meat that does originate from imported lambs, specifying where the production practices occurred should help reduce consumer confusion about the origin of their lamb."
 
Canada and Mexico voiced their opposition saying the new changes will increase discrimination against their products. Several meat, poultry and food retail associations also strongly disagree with the new COOL regulations. 
 
Notice of the final rule is available in the Federal Register at www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2013-05-24/html/2013-12366.htm.