What happens now? Cattle and hog groups react to "Product of USA" labeling decision

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Monday, U.S. ag secretary Tom Vilsack released the final wording of the “Product of U.S.A.” label requirements as it relates to several products, including beef and pork.

Though voluntary, the rule is as restrictive — or more — than the mandatory country of origin labeling (mCOOL) requirements that spawned years and years of trade disputes between Canada and the U.S. When put in to effect on January 1, 2026, only products born, raised, and slaughtered in the U.S. will be able to carry the label.

MCOOL cost the Canadian cattle and hog industries approximately $1 billion per year, says Dennis Laycraft, executive vice president of the Canadian Cattle Association, due to the cost of segregation, added transport, decreased efficiency and discounted animals.

When implemented, Laycraft says this voluntary rule has the potential to be more onerous than mCOOL. (More below the interview)

“Three million pigs are exported to the United States from Manitoba every year, in addition to the over $400 million worth of Manitoba pork products,” says Manitoba Pork chair Rick Préjet. “These changes, like the original mandatory policy successfully challenged at the World Trade Organization, will significantly impact trade in the integrated Canada/U.S. market, and we are extremely disappointed that the final rule did not consider the concerns expressed by Canada.”

Minster of Agriculture and Agri-Food Lawrence MacAulay and Minister of Trade Mary Ng released a joint statement in reaction to the rule:

“The meat and livestock sectors in Canada and the United States work closely together, supporting food security as well as local and regional food systems. Our indispensable relationship allows producers, processors and consumers on both sides of the border to benefit from efficient, stable and competitive markets, while ensuring a reliable supply of high-quality products.

“Canada remains concerned about any measures that may cause disruptions to the highly integrated North American meat and livestock supply chains.

“We are disappointed that the final rule does not appear to take into account the concerns we have continually brought forward related to our unique and important trading relationship. Canada intends to raise this during the agriculture ministers trilateral meeting with United States and Mexico scheduled to take place in Colorado later this month.”

Unlike mCOOL, the WTO trade dispute mechanism may not function in this situation, Laycraft says. The plan now is to engage with U.S. and Mexican counterparts within the industry, he says, to work on solutions. It’s possible that some packers may choose not to use the label at all, but the preference is to develop something based on the CODEX rule system for international markets.

 

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