Where’s The Beef From?: U.S. Regulators To Propose New Meat Label Requirements

Because not knowing where your food comes from means that your food could’ve come from an unsavory source (horsemeat, anyone?), the United States is supposed to propose new rules this week that would require any meat products to be labeled with the basics: Where an animal was born, what it was fed and where it was slaughtered.

But those rules aren’t being celebrated by everyone beyond the U.S. borders — Reuters says Canada and Mexico are ticked off and blame those kinds of labels for a decline in their beef and pig shipments.

The new rules are supposed to be in line with an order by the World Trade Organization, which told the U.S. it’d have to change the labeling requirements after Canada and Mexico complained back in 2009. The fresh set of labeling requirements are expected by a deadline of May 23, and Canada is already warning that it’ll fight back if the rules aren’t what they want.

“What the Americans have proposed as a response to the WTO ruling does not get the job done. It actually makes things worse,” Canadian Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said, noting that his country would likely penalize U.S. beef and pork imports.

Those two countries say that having the country of origin on labels discriminates against imported livestock, while proponents of the labels say it’s an effort to provide consumers with more info about the safety and origin of their food.

The U.S. didn’t relax its rules after the WTO ordered it to change them, but instead regulators argue that tougher requirements would be in compliance with the WTO because the U.S. has to comply with them as well as other countries.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told Reuters he’s confident the rules will pass muster with the WTO.

“I don’t think it’s our responsibility necessarily to respond to what Mexico or Canada say we need to do,” he said. “I think our response is to be consistent with the WTO directive, and as well understand what the WTO said — that while every country has the right to label, the labeling that we had developed was not adequate.”

U.S. to introduce stricter rules on meat imports, labels [Reuters]