July 15, 2024

U.S. Appeals Court Upholds COOL Labeling Rule

The full U.S. District Court of Appeals rejected the challenge to the USDA’s meat labeling rules filed by the meat industry. Those rules are known as country of origin labeling (COOL).  In addition to opposing labeling for economic reasons, the meat industry believes they are being forced to issue statements against their will. A three-panel judge ruled against the meat industry in March 2014 and requested a full court review of the meat industry’s First Amendment claims.

GavelsThe court decided that regulations satisfy a government interest to protect consumers. The court stated that Congress has passed mandates for labeling for more than 100 years. The meat industry claims that these labels could drive meat producers out of business if consumers don’t want to buy meat that was raised or processed in another country.

The meat industry had argued that consumers simply want to know where meat comes from “out of idle curiosity.” The court rejected that argument, stating that “country-of-origin information has an historical pedigree that lifts it well above ‘idle curiosity.'” Congress has stated that the statute’s purpose enables consumers to make informed choices based on information about products they want to purchase. The court said that consumers have the right to take possible “country-specific differences in safety practices into account.” The court also stated that the meat industry’s First Amendment claims would have more merit if the government wanted to stop them from adding information to a label rather than adding it.

A label on a steak or roast could read, “Born in Brazil, raised in Mexico, slaughtered in the U.S.A.” Canada and Mexico oppose COOL, and could impose tariffs on meat imports if the WTO rules in their favor.  The World Trade Organization (WTO) is still deciding whether the United States regulations comply with international law.



  1. I am glad the courts affirmed this and also wish it would extend to GMOs. I also want to know if it is irradiated (the last tomato I ever bought at a Walmart lasted for over 3 months on my kitchen counter without rotting…tomatoes are not designed to work that way). I want to know where my food comes from, and what is in it and that information is put into my purchase decisions. That is not idle curiosity. I was grateful after Chernobyl when we had a glut of apple juice from Eastern Europe (bottles labeled as such) and I could choose not to buy that for my children. I also would like to see it extended to where the food is processed – vis a vis-China processing US grown chickens and Pacific caught fish. Of course with the Trans Pacific Partnership we will all be out of luck, and that is why I am growing as much of my own food as I can and buying direct from as many local farmers as I can.

  2. I wish the courts would affirm the people’s right to know if our food and food products contain GMOs. But, I’m glad that we will be allowed to know what country our meat comes from. At least, for the time being. That is subject to change and we will be kept in the dark, again. With all the food poisonings, and filth in the food supply, eating is risky and hazardous to our health. I’m so glad we have this website and the alerts, to help keep us safer. What we don’t know, can kill us.

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