Judge rules against COOL preliminary injunction

Meat packers and retailers now required to move forward on implementing labeling meat products with specified born, raised and slaughtered info.

A district court judge denied a petition for a preliminary injunction on whether or not to allow the U.S. Department of Agriculture to move forward with implementation of a rule that would require the labeling of where an animal is born, raised and slaughtered in the meat case.

Plaintiffs argued in oral arguments Aug. 27 that the rule violates their First Amendment rights by compelling speech as well as exceeds the agency's authority and breaks the Administrative Procedures Act by being arbitrary and onerous. 

The American Meat Institute is leading the plaintiffs along with National Cattlemen’s Beef Assn., North American Meat Assn., Canadian Cattlemen’s Assn., Canadian Pork Council, National Pork Producers Council, American Assn. of Meat Processors, Southwest Meat Assn. and Mexico’s National Confederation of Livestock Organizations.

NCBA President Scott George said the group was disappointed in the latest ruling. "We had hoped that the Court would understand that this failed rule by USDA will cost the industry in excess of $100 million in record-keeping and increased labeling costs, all for a rule that will very likely not be found to meet with our international trade obligations," George noted.

NFU, along with the U.S. Cattlemen's Assn., American Sheep Industry Assn. and the Consumer Federation of America, became intervenors in the lawsuit on Aug. 19, when the court entered an order granting their motion to intervene in full, permitting the groups to participate in the preliminary injunction hearing as well as the remainder of the litigation.

NFU President Roger Johnson welcomed the ruling which supports consumer's desire to know where their food comes from. "

"We are pleased that the packer-producer organizations and foreign interests’ attempts to thwart COOL have been denied. We are committed to defending COOL and will continue to do so throughout this legal process," he said.

In the judge's ruling, the court document explained that "the Court has no trouble concluding that experience and common sense dictates that there was a likelihood of consumer confusion under the prior COOL program."

It went on to explain how when USDA updated the rule its objective was to provide consumers additional information. "The Final Rule sufficiently establishes that the regulation was intended to address the possibility of consumer confusion regarding the origin of covered commodities," the judge explained.

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