Tyson Foods Inc., the largest U.S. meat processor, says it has stopped buying slaughter-ready cattle from Canada as of mid-October due to the higher expense of Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) rules that require labels showing where an animal was born, raised and slaughtered. But the company will continue purchasing cattle born in Canada that are finished in U.S. feedlots.
The COOL rule matter is being challenged both domestically and internationally. Opponents say the labeling is burdensome, costly and could result in additional World Trade Organization (WTO) challenges. Proponents say COOL satisfies consumers' wish to know where their food comes from and say this could boost U.S. meat sales.
Earlier this year, a District Court judge rejected a request by several U.S. and Canadian meat/livestock groups for a preliminary injunction to prevent USDA from implementing the rule on the grounds it violates first amendment speech rights and that USDA doesn't have the authority to enact it. The judge said the industry failed to show it would suffer irreparable harm if COOL was in effect while the case is being decided.
Meanwhile, members of the World Trade Organization have agreed to a second request by Canada and Mexico that it set up a dispute panel to rule whether the U.S. complied with a previous WTO ruling against COOL rules for meat products.
The amended COOL measure "only serves to deepen the discrimination found in the original labeling requirements," Canada told the Dispute Settlement Body, while Mexico said the new rules deepen distortions to cross-border trade in meat and "unnecessarily increase" costs to operators in the sector.
Both countries have indicated they plan to take retaliatory actions against the U.S. -- Canada, with WTO approval, and Mexico, possibly regardless of approval.