USDA will implement the mandatory Country-of-Origin Labeling law on Sept. 30. Livestock producer will be required to provide information on the origin of their animals. The National Pork Producers Council and National Pork Board are working with packers to help implement the COOL requirements. The groups have outlined ways for the industry to be compliant with the COOL regulation.

NPPC officials point out that producers need to communicate with their packers regarding the packers’ decisions on how they will comply with the new COOL regulations. Some packers may choose not to accept pigs for slaughter with a Canadian background. Some packers may want to harvest certain pigs on certain days of the week or month. Packers will indicate to producers what records will be needed to verify origin.

NPPC and NPB officials encourage and emphasize that producers should communicate with their packer to find answers to these and other potential questions.

Here, NPPC and NPB offer some additional perspectives, guidelines and answers for the upcoming COOL implementation.

What is Country of Origin Labeling (COOL)?

The 2008 Farm Bill amended the 2002 Act to require retailers to notify their customers of the country of origin of beef (including veal), lamb, pork, fish, shellfish, perishable agricultural commodities, and peanuts beginning September 30, 2008.

What is covered under the new regulation?

  • The rule does not apply to covered commodities (meat products) produced and packaged before Sept. 30.
  • Animals present in the United States on or before July 15 that remain continuously in the United States will be considered of U.S.origin.
  • The law only applies to commodities sold at retail.
  • Foodservice establishments are exempted by the statute.
  • Processed food items (including those that are cooked, cured, smoked or restructured) are exempted from labeling by the statute. Examples include meatloaf, meatballs, fabricated steak, breaded veal cutlets, corned beef, sausage, and breaded chicken tenders, teriyaki-flavored pork loin.

Who is responsible for complying with COOL regulations?

All producers, packers, processors, distributors, who are engaged in the production, harvest, processing, distribution, and sale of covered commodities (pork) which will be sold at retail establishments. This does not apply to foodservice.

What are the Categories of Origin for Meat?

Beef, lamb, pork, goat, and chicken products that are muscle cuts and covered

Commodities fall into one of four categories established by the new law:

  • Product of the United States — Exclusively from animals born, raised, and slaughtered in the U.S.
  • Multiple Countries-of-Origin — Product of the U.S., Canada; allows flexibility for slaughter plant to have either animals born raised and slaughtered in the U.S. and/or animals born in Canada, raised in the U.S., and slaughtered in the U.S.
  • Imported for Immediate Slaughter — Product of Canada, U.S.; product from animals imported from Canada for immediate slaughter in the U.S.
  • Covered Commodity that is Foreign Country-of-Origin — Product of Canada; Muscle cuts of meat from animals slaughtered in a foreign country and imported to the U.S.

What is type of information will be required for documentation?

The new regulation allows, in addition to “normal production and other records,” producer affidavits (declaration of origin) as a record that can provide verification as to the origin of the animal. A producer affidavit will be considered acceptable evidence, provided it is made by someone having first-hand knowledge of the animals' origin and identifies the animals unique to the transaction.

If you sell your animals directly to a packer, you will likely be asked to sign an affidavit stating the origin of the pigs. 

Records must be maintained for at least one year and available within five days if requested. Slaughter facilities must possess or have legal access to records that substantiate their origin claims.

If slaughtered animals are part of the National Animal Identification System, an official ear tag or the presence of any accompanying animal markings can be used as the basis of origin claims.

If you are purchasing, (feeder pigs or wearers) you will need your supplier or suppliers to sign a declaration of origin/affidavit to indicate the origin of these pigs you just purchased. These affidavits will need to be kept by the purchaser (producer) and they will be used to substantiate the origin for the affidavit provided to the packer. This would include producers buying domestic and/or imported pigs. 

What is an affidavit?

A declaration of origin or producer affidavit is a legal document that indicates origin of the load of animals you are selling.  A packer may ask you, a producer, to sign an affidavit declaring the load of pig’s country of origin.

  • It is okay for you to sign the affidavit as long as you are the producer involved in selling the animals to the packer and have first-hand knowledge of the origin of the animals and can identify the animals in the transaction.
  • Someone having first-hand knowledge of the origin of the animal(s) can be the owner or operator of operation on the premises.
  • A truck driver does not have first-hand knowledge of the origin of the animal(s), unless they are the owner of the animal.
  • Evidence that identifies the animal(s) unique to a transaction can include a tag ID, group/lot ID, number of animals and premises ID.

An example of an Affidavit/Declaration of Country of Origin of Livestock:

As this affidavit is deemed by USDA as an official record of origin, I attest through first-hand knowledge, normal business records, or producer affidavit(s) that all livestock referenced by this document or other communications specific to the transaction and transferred are of ______________________origin.

Should the origin of my livestock become other than that described above, I agree to notify the buyer/agent.   This declaration shall remain in effect until revoked in writing by the undersigned and is delivered to___________________________ (market/packer). 

 

________________________________   ___________   _______________________

                     Signature                                      Date                   Business/Farm/Location

 

What if you are a producer buying domestic pigs on the open market?

  • Have your suppliers/sellers sign an affidavit.
  • The person who signs the affidavit is made by someone having first-hand knowledge of the origin of the animal(s) and identifies the animal(s) unique to the transaction. 

What if you are a producer buying imported pigs on the open market?

  • Have your suppliers/sellers sign an affidavit.
  • Import health papers also serve as verification of origin.
  • The person who signs the affidavit is made by someone having first-hand knowledge of the origin of the animal(s) and identifies the animal(s) unique to the transaction. 

What if you are a farrow to finish producer?

The affidavit you supply to the packer will be the proof of origin.

How and when will any audits of records occur?

There will be routine supply chain audits, either initiated by USDA or retailers or packers. USDA authority for conducting audits only goes to the packers. Packers are responsible for verifying producer records.

  • When a supply chain audit is conducted, the retailer will rely on the packer to verify origin. The packer will rely on the producer to verify origin. If the packer needs information beyond the signed affidavit, such as composite affidavits from producers where you purchased pigs, then the packer will ask for this information.  USDA regulatory authority stops at the packer.
  • Records producers can use to verify origin of their animals beyond a signed affidavit:
    • National Animal Identification System (NAIS)  - Swine ID plan
    • Normal Production records such as: affidavits from your supplying producers, birth records, receiving records, purchase records, animal health papers, sales receipts, animal inventory documents, feeding records, APHIS VS forms, segregation plans, State Brand requirements, breeding stock information, PQA Plus records, and other similar documents. In addition, participation in USDA Quality System Verification Programs (QSVP), such as the USDA Process Verified Program (and the Quality Systems Assessment (QSA) Program that contain a source verification component is also considered as acceptable. These examples are not inclusive of all documents and records that may be useful to verify compliance with COOL, but they should provide a strong basis to substantiate a claim during an audit.

How long do I need to keep records?

USDA is requiring retailers and packers to retain records for one year. Therefore, producers should keep their records for onr year after the animal is marketed.  These records may include: affidavits from your supplying producers, normal production records in the previous section.