Court slaps down meat industry efforts to avoid country of origin labeling on meat products

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by Ethan A. Huff

NaturalNews) Shady efforts by the meat industry to sidestep having to inform  consumers about where its cattle are born, raised and slaughtered have  ultimately failed, as a U.S. District Court recently struck down lunatic claims  that the new requirements somehow violate free speech. In her 76-page ruling,  Judge Ketanji B. Jackson rejected claims by the meat industry that new U.S.  Department of Agriculture (USDA) meat labeling requirements violate the First  Amendment, a strong judicial move that represents a solid victory for the  truth-in-labeling movement.
In conjunction with new provisions outlined  in the latest installment of the quinquennial farm bill, the USDA recently  established updated country of origin labeling requirements for meat products  that are set to take effect in November. These new requirements will expand  existing country of origin labeling provisions, requiring meat companies to  indicate where their meat originally came from as well as where it was  ultimately processed and packaged before being sold to  consumers.
Currently, meat imported from other countries, including  commingled meat from multiple different countries within the same package, only  has to indicate “Product of …” on the package. Such vague wording does little  to truly inform consumers about the full life-cycle of the meat they are  purchasing and eating, as meat processors routinely import and mix cattle from  all over the world to boost market share and cut costs, all without informing  consumers.
But with an increasing number of people demanding to know the  true sources of the foods they buy, this longstanding labeling inadequacy is no longer acceptable. And in a rare move of solidarity in the  interests of the people rather than faceless corporations, the USDA decided to  follow through with the new farm bill provisions by improving these meat labeling requirements, which will better hold the meat industry accountable and  improve transparency.

Meat industry attempts to pull First Amendment violation card to avoid  transparency

Not surprisingly, this move by the USDA has upset the meat  industry, which claims that it will cost hundreds of millions of dollars to  retrofit its operations to keep animals segregated and alter production  processes. The industry even went so far as to claim that the new requirements will violate its First  Amendment rights, a laughable claim that, thankfully, the American justice  system was not about to accept.
“It would be one thing if plaintiffs were  making a substantiated allegation that the demands of complying with the final  rule’s segregation and labeling requirements are in-and-of-themselves impossible  to meet without destroying their companies,” Jackson wrote in her ruling. “But  here, to the contrary, plaintiffs’ declarants appear most concerned that they  will ultimately lose future business because others may respond to the new  labeling rules and react in a manner that may ultimately affect their companies  negatively.”
Jackson went even further to denounce the First Amendment  violation claim, correctly pointing out that meat labeling requirements are  “commercial” speech, not individual speech, and that government agencies tasked  with such regulatory jurisdiction have the full right to impose changes designed  to eliminate consumer confusion.
“In the First Amendment context, it is  the burden on speech, not pocketbook, that matters,” added  Jackson.
According to Courthouse News Service, plaintiffs in the  case — those that oppose the USDA’s new meat labeling requirements — included  the American Meat Institute, the American Association of Meat Processors, the  Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, the Canadian Pork Council, the National  Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the National Pork Producers Council, the North  American Meat Association, the National Pork Producers Council and the Southwest  Meat Association.
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