Grocers Face Bigger Labels, New Meat Handling Rules From USDA

U.S. grocers are in the crosshairs of new meat-labeling regulations issued just before the Memorial Day weekend. The new rules from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) require grocery meat department labels to go into much greater detail about where meat comes from, and the rules disallow mixing meat from animals raised in different countries in the same package, Progressive Grocer reported.

That means muscle cuts of beef, pork, lamb and chicken will have to be carefully tracked at each stage of production, so grocery labels can detail the country where the animal was born, raised and slaughtered. The regulations appear to block catch-all labels that would allow a single package mixing cuts from, for example, an animal born in Canada but raised and slaughtered in the U.S. with an animal born and raised in Canada but slaughtered in the U.S.

The 98-page labeling rule was published Friday (May 24) and goes into effect for grocers in six months. For meat suppliers, the rule is in effect immediately. "Technically, people will be out of compliance if they're not providing the born, raised and slaughtered information [to grocers] starting tomorrow," said Mark Dopp, general counsel for the American Meat Institute. "The idea that the effective date is tomorrow is, as a practical matter, nonsense."

The new rule was issued because the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled in June 2012 that the U.S.'s existing country-of-origin labeling program discriminated against Canada and Mexico. The deadline for the U.S. to comply was last Thursday (May 23), Supermarket News reported. However, the WTO has yet to decide if the new rule actually complies with its ruling.

The USDA estimates the cost of the new rule at $32 million. The National Grocers Association says it's actually likely to cost grocers more than $100 million for new and bigger labels, new machines and signage that could change daily.

For more:

- See this Progressive Grocer story
- See this Supermarket News story

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