America’s four largest beef packers are misleading consumers with their “Produced in the U.S.A.” labels, according to the claims in two class-action lawsuits filed in New Mexico. The suits allege the labels are misleading because the products often contain imported beef.
The lawsuits, filed by a rancher and a consumer and transferred to New Mexico’s federal distraict court, claim Tyson, Cargill, JBS and National Beef have been misleading the public with such labeling since 2015 when Congress rescinded the Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) regulations for pork and beef. Current federal regulations allow beef packers to label products as U.S.-produced if the animal is processed in the U.S. Therefore, animals born, raised and slaughtered in another country can qualify as “Product of the U.S.A.”
The lawsuits claim packers have imported $6.2 billion worth of cattle/beef per year since 2015.
“By deceiving consumers about the true origin of the Products, Defendants are able to sell a greater volume of the Products, to produce cheaper products in other Countries, and to take away market share from competitors as well as pay lower prices to domestic producers, thereby increasing their own sales and profits,” plaintiffs state.
COOL was repealed in December 2015, just days before the World Trade Organization (WTO) was set to approve $1 billion in retaliatory tariffs against the United States. COOL required meat from other countries sold in the United States to bear a label indicating its country of origin. According to the WTO, COOL violated trade standards and could have led to millions of tariffs on U.S. exporters from Mexico, Canada and possibly other countries.
The New Mexico lawsuits claim the alleged misbranding of beef has cost American cattlemen $30 billion over the last four years, and that consumers should know what they are buying.
Opponents of COOL, however, say COOL is nothing more than a protectionist measure and that packers are not violating labeling laws as they are currently written.