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Tyson to tighten meat labelling: Reuters

Tyson Foods’ plan to follow new U.S. country-of-origin labelling (COOL) laws on meat by using one “Product of U.S., Canada, Mexico” label has been derailed, according to the Reuters news service.

Reuters reported Wednesday that Tyson, the leading beef producer and second-biggest pork producer in the U.S., has reconsidered its plan after getting feedback from U.S. government officials and some industry associations.

James Lochner, a senior group vice-president at Tyson Fresh Meats, is quoted as having written in a letter to customers that if the company doesn’t take steps to meet “the desires of COOL advocates and many lawmakers,” then it may lose some of the “flexibility” in the current COOL rules.

To that end, Tyson said, it will label all of its premium beef products in the “Product of U.S.” category starting early next year, Reuters said. Tyson’s premium cattle and beef are already segregated from other products.

Reuters said the company plans to label about 90 per cent of its beef and pork cuts as “”Product of U.S.” by mid-2009, while the remainder would carry a multiple country-of-origin label, such as “Product of U.S., Canada” or “Product of U.S., Canada, Mexico.”

After years of congressional haggling and delays, the U.S. government finally put mandatory COOL into effect on Sept. 30, amid fears in Canada that U.S. packers, many of whom buy Canadian slaughter animals and mingle those with U.S. livestock, would pare back their demand for Canadian livestock rather than go to the expense of segregating their animals by country of origin.

According to news reports, both Tyson and rival Cargill had previously planned to stream all their slaughter animals into the “multi-country” labelling category, including those born and raised exclusively in the U.S., to help reduce the expense of COOL rules.

However, the U.S. meat industry news site reported Friday that Cargill Meat Solutions will follow suit and stream at least 70 per cent of its beef and pork products into a “Product of U.S.” category by Jan. 1.

Cargill spokesmen were quoted on the website as saying the company would make such a move more efficient by working with producers to ensure animals of similar characteristics are shipped to slaughter in groups, and may also designate different delivery windows for different types of animals.

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