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Canadian beef farmers fight US meat label rules

July 26, 2013

CALGARY, Alberta (AP) — An organization that represents Canadian beef farmers said Friday it is seeking an injunction while a court in the U.S. hears its case against country of origin meat labeling.

The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association said it is part of a coalition that has asked the U.S. District Court in Washington to delay the policy to be implemented in November.

The policy would require labels on meat products sold in the United States to contain detailed information about where the products come from.

The lawsuit claims that the rule would violate the U.S. Agriculture Marketing Act and is arbitrary.

The coalition that filed the injunction argues the policy would cause irreparable harm to the U.S. meat and livestock industry by increasing costs and making it more difficult for U.S. companies to buy Canadian products.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit also include the American Association of Meat Processors, American Meat Institute, Canadian Pork Council, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Pork Producers Council, North American Meat Association and Southwest Meat Association.

In 2009, the U.S. issued the requirement that retail outlets put country of origin labels on meat and other products in an effort to give U.S. consumers more information about their food.

A World Trade Organization ruling on meat labeling found the U.S. system discriminates against foreign livestock.

The U.S. announced earlier this year that it wants to require even more detail on the origins of beef, pork and chicken sold in grocery stores.

Labels would include such information as “born, raised and slaughtered in the United States.” Cuts of meat from other countries could carry labels such as “born in Canada, raised and slaughtered in the United States.”

The Canadian Pork Council estimates the existing labeling rule has already cost Canada about $97 million (CA$1 billion) annually in beef and pork exports.

Last month, the Canadian government released a list of potential U.S. agricultural products to which Canada could apply retaliatory tariffs. They include cattle, pigs, beef, pork, some fruits and vegetables and chocolate.

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said that while Canadians could see higher prices as a result, the U.S. will lose jobs and significant revenue from the tariffs.

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