Mixed Reactions to COOL Regulations

Final rule for COOL is published.

Published on: Jan 13, 2009

The final rule for Country-of-Origin Labeling has been published in the Federal Register. Bill Sessions of USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service says there have been some changes from the interim rule issued last August and final rule that has now been published. Among the changes is the classification of meat under COOL.

"Essentially there are four categories of meat that are derived from these animals," Sessions says. "There is U.S. origin, there is what we call mixed-origin where the animals are born in another country and raised and slaughtered in this country, those animals that imported for direct slaughter and the meat that comes in as imported product."

R-CALF USA remains disappointed in certain aspects of the rules, but the organization's CEO Bill Bullard, admits there is some good in the new rules.

"One good development is that USDA adopted our request for visual inspections, thus allowing a producer to look at an animal and determine if it has any foreign markings. If it does not, the producer can sign an affidavit declaring the animal is exclusively of USA origin," Bullard says. "USDA also removed the authorization that gave packers legal access to producers' records and, instead, requires only that packers possess records."

One of the most disappointing findings, according to Bullard, is that USDA has kept in place the loophole that allows U.S. packers to commingle one foreign animal in each day's production, thus allowing the packers to label the entire day's production as 'mixed-country product,' even if everything except one animal were exclusively of USA origin.