Meat Industry Lose Second Court Battle on COOL Injunction

Jul 30, 2014

By Amanda Brodhagen,

North American meat industry groups were unsuccessful in their second attempt to block implementation of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s May 2013 final rule on the country-of-origin labelling, also known as COOL, in a July 29 court ruling.

The U.S. Court of Appeals rejected the arguments put forward by meat producers, including Tyson Foods Inc. and JBS USA, saying that the USDA’s meat labeling rule violated their First Amendment (free-speech) rights by mandating retailers to issue statements against their will in the form of costly labels on meat products, without "directly advancing a government interest."

 Labels are mandated to include information about where an animal was born, raised and slaughtered, “Born in Canada, Raised and Slaughtered in the United States,” would be an example.

A U.S. judge, Stephen Williams, wrote that the government’s interest in providing consumers with information overrides free speech claims. Williams issued the ruling on behalf of a divided panel of 11 judges.

The lawsuit had been filed in July 2013 by several industry groups, including the American Meat Institute, National Pork Producers Council, American Association of Meat Processors, Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, Canadian Pork Council, Confedaracion Nacional de Organizaciones Ganaderas, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, North American Meat Association and the Southwest Meat Association.

Despite the U.S. court of appeals ruling, the COOL dispute is still ongoing. The future of the final rule is pending a ruling by the World Trade Organization. In this case, the disputing parties - Canada and Mexico, received an interim report from the WTO compliance panel. A full report on the trade verdict is expected to be release sometime in the late summer or early fall, with an appeal likely to follow.

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