The USDA's interim final rule on the mandatory Country-of-origin Labeling law has not changed the National Pork Producers Council's position that the COOL program will be costly for the U.S. pork industry and of little benefit to consumers. NPPC submitted comments on the program last week.
According to USDA's estimates, the law will cost the livestock industry $2.5 billion to implement and nearly $212 million annually over the next 10 years. NPPC's comments did acknowledge that the rule’s provision which allows for a multiple-country label offers some needed flexibility for the pork industry. This multiple-country label can be used for pigs raised in the United States but born in another country.
COOL took effect last week, on Sept. 30, and requires pork, beef, lamb and goat meat to be labeled in one of four categories:
- Meat may be labeled a product of the U.S. only if the animals from which it was derived were “born, raised and slaughtered” in the United States (Category A).
- Meat from animals born in another country but raised and slaughtered in the United States , such as Canadian feeder pigs, can be labeled products of the U.S. and the other country (Category B).
- Meat from animals born, raised and slaughtered outside the United States must be labeled as a product of the foreign country from which it came.
- Meat from animals born, raised and/or slaughtered in more than one country – other than the United States – may be labeled with a list of those countries.
Animals in the United States on or before July 15, 2008, are grand-fathered in and considered “of U.S. origin.” Processed meat products can be labeled with a list of countries or possible countries from which they were derived.
NPPC and other livestock groups worked to change in the law as provided in the 2008 Farm Bill, including the label flexibility and making recordkeeping to verify an animal’s country of origin clearer and easier. Producers may use existing records, such as normal business records, animal-health papers and import or customs documents for origin verification. Producers also may provide affidavits about the origin of their animals.
NPPC officials say they will work with producers, packers and retailers to help with COOL compliance measures. USDA has indicated that it will conduct education and outreach on the COOL labeling and origin verification process for the first six month before moving to enforcement. For more information about the MCOOL law, click here.