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Tyson to tighten beef, pork COOL labelling

U. S. meat company Tyson Foods Inc. said this week it will tighten its country-of-origin labelling (COOL) practices starting early next year to identify more of its beef and pork products as sourced exclusively from the United States.

The leading U. S. beef and No. 2 pork producer had initially planned on categorizing its beef and pork cuts with a looser and less costly multiple country-of-origin label, but abandoned that plan after receiving feedback from government officials and some industry groups.

“If we do not take measures to more fully meet the desi res of COOL advocates and many lawmakers, and label a large percentage of retail, fresh meat cuts as a product of the U. S., it is likely some of the flexibility in the current regulations will be eliminated,” James Lochner, senior group vice-president at Tyson Fresh Meats, said in a letter to customers.

Tyson said it will label all of its premium beef products in the U. S.-sourced category beginning in early 2009. Cattle and beef in Tyson’s premium programs are already segregated from other products and labelled separately.

It aims to label about 90 per cent of the rest of its beef and pork cuts as U. S. sourced by the middle of next year while the remainder will be marked with multiple country-of-origin or imported labels.

Under COOL rules, livestock producers must keep detailed records about the source of their a n ima l s . A l s o, me a t packers and processors must provide country-of-origin information to retailers.

Supporters argue that consumers increasingly want to know where their food comes from and that COOL can help isolate food safety issues like mad cow disease. Opponents counter that implementation costs are too high and that existing food supply safeguards are sufficient.

Tyson said the changes will result in higher production costs and that those costs would ultimately be passed on via higher finished product prices or through lower livestock prices.

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