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Federal judge upholds ruling requiring meat labels to display country of origin

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A federal appeals court decision on Friday allows the government to continue requiring the meat industry to display labels on packaged meat that tell consumers where the animal it came from was born, raised, and slaughtered.

The ruling, which falls in conjunction with a previous decision from a lower court, was made by a three-judge panel. It mandates that labels provide more specific information and will read, for example, "born in Mexico, raised and slaughtered in the United States," as opposed to simply "Product of U.S." or "Product of Mexico."

The American Meat Institute had challenged the regulation of country-of-origin labeling (COOL) in a lawsuit, claiming that the new requirements are burdensome, would raise production costs, and infringe upon First Amendment rights by forcing meat producers to include origin information.

Producers, who would also be required to keep domestic animals separate from international ones, say listing the country of origin does not provide any additional health benefits.

"We disagree strongly with the court's decision and believe that the rule will continue to harm livestock producers and the industry with little benefit to consumers," American Meat Institute interim president James Hodges said in response. AMI is reportedly now "reviewing its options."

Reuters notes that some ranchers on the other hand, such as those with the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, were pleased with the ruling, saying it allows them to "highlight beef from their cattle that are born, raised, and slaughtered in the U.S."

Judge Stephen F. Williams of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington D.C. justifies the ruling by writing that the requirements would let consumers use "patriotic or protectionist criteria" when choosing what meat products to buy, calling it a "minimal" intrusion on First Amendment rights.

The regulations in question went into effect last year and can now continue as a result of the ruling.

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