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Chicken Not the Issue in M-COOL Controversy, Says NCC

15 April 2013

US - In comments filed with USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, the National Chicken Council requested that the proposed rule for mandatory country-of-origin labeling (mCOOL) not involve changing any label language for chicken.

NCC explained that the World Trade Organization (WTO) challenge filed by Canada and Mexico and subsequently upheld by the WTO is a dispute involving cattle, beef, hogs, and pork. Chicken is not involved in the dispute, so making any changes to the mCOOL language on chicken packages is unnecessary and a needless waste of time and resources, the NCC comments said.

Since less than 0.3 per cent of the chicken in the United States is sourced from foreign countries and, further, since only a portion of the imported chicken is actually covered by the mCOOL regulations, there are even more reasons to allow the current mCOOL labeling of chicken packaging to remain as is.

Needlessly disrupting the way chicken is now labeled to meet the mCOOL requirements will most likely force companies to discard pre-printed packaging inventories since the lead time to move to the mCOOL statement could be relatively brief. NCC also noted the AMS is only requiring muscle meats to make the proposed labeling language change. Under the proposed rule, ground, chopped, and similar forms of meat and chicken are exempt from having to make a label change.

At the same time, however, NCC explained that, if AMS finds it necessary to include chicken in the final regulatory changes, the required language should have an option that is compatible with the chicken industry practices. That is, the proposed rule requires the statement "Born, raised, and slaughtered in the United States." A much more appropriate option for chicken, NCC recommended, is "hatched, raised, and processed (or harvested) in the United States."

With respect to whatever determination is made in the final rule for chicken, NCC encouraged AMS to work closely with the Food Safety and Inspection Service so that chicken processors and retail grocers can minimize the cost impact and most effectively manage changes resulting from any mCOOL rule changes.

You can view NCC's comments by clicking here.

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