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Meat industry takes aim at USDA's new labeling laws in court

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The U.S. meat industry is trying to reverse a newly implemented government labeling standard that would tell consumers where animals used in meat products were born, raised and slaughtered.

In a federal appeals court hearing Thursday, lawyers for trade associations representing meat companies like Minnesota-based Cargill Inc. and Hormel Foods Corp. argued that the new rule violates companies' free speech by forcing them to reveal information that will not protect the public, the Star Tribune reports.

The industry also claims country-of-origin labeling, or COOL, will cause irreparable financial damage. According to the Kansas City Star, the new standard prohibits combining cuts of meat from more than one animal in a single package, which ultimately requires the industry to make millions of dollars in changes to its operations.

But the government says consumers have a right to know where the meat they eat comes from.

As of Nov. 23, 2013, retailers and meatpackers must provide the additional information for certain cuts of beef, veal, chicken, pork, lamb and goat sold in supermarkets, the Kansas City Star reported.

"The vast majority of red meats and processed meats that we’re going to see in a grocery store will be from the United States,” Bryon Wiegand, who teaches in the meat science department at the University of Missouri-Columbia, told the newspaper.

The other battle comes from Canada and Mexico -- the U.S.'s biggest beef and pork trading partners. The two countries say the requirement will likely take business away from their beef and hog exporters as American consumers are likely to purchase American products. The two countries have asked the World Trade Organization to investigate.

In the U.S., the federal three-judge appeals panel is not expected to issue a decision for weeks and it's hard to guess which way their leaning, Politico noted.

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