US appeals WTO ruling against national meat labels

AP News
|
Posted: Nov 28, 2014 3:13 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States is appealing a World Trade Organization decision that would make it harder for U.S. consumers to know where meat in the grocery store came from.

The WTO in October rejected U.S. rules requiring labels on packaged steaks, ribs and other cuts of meat identifying where the animals were born, raised and slaughtered. The WTO said the "country of origin labeling" requirements put Canadian and Mexican livestock at a disadvantage.

On Friday, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative appealed the ruling.

U.S. farmers who compete with Mexican and Canadian ranchers welcomed the appeal. National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson on Friday called it "the right thing to do for American family farmers, ranchers and consumers." But meatpackers oppose the labeling requirements, saying they impose costly paperwork.

Originally, the U.S. Department of Agriculture allowed the labels to say simply "Product of U.S." or "Product of U.S. and Canada." The WTO rejected that approach in 2012.

So USDA made the labels more specific in an attempt to win WTO approval. For example, they can say the animal that produced the meat was "born in Mexico, raised and slaughtered in the United States" or "born, raised and slaughtered in the United States." But in October, the WTO also rejected the revised rules.