Changes to US Meat Labels Might Harm Mexican Exports: SADER
Mexico’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (SADER) pointed out that the proposed legal changes to the Made in the USA grocery meat labels may be discriminatory against exported meat products that come from Mexico.
On March 13, 2023, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a proposal to modify the Made in the USA labeling, which seeks to identify meat and poultry products produced in the US. These changes would imply that the labels can only be displayed if the products are derived from animals born, raised, slaughtered and processed in the US. Under current rules, the voluntary labels can be displayed on products derived from animals that have been imported to the US and slaughtered locally, and also on meat that has been imported and repackaged or further processed in the US.
In a press release, SADER stressed that this petition does not consider the degree of integration among producers, ranchers and meat industries in Mexico and the US. “Livestock and meat products from both countries are traded duty-free across our borders, whether for substantial processing, slaughter, and/or processing and consumption. This commercial integration makes our region a more competitive, safe market with quality products, which has allowed meat products to be more accessible to consumers,” the statement reads.
Furthermore, SADER stated that if approved, this measure could have negative implications for Mexican exports of live animals and meat products. Juan Anaya, Director General, Agricultural Markets Consultants Group (GCMA), said that the labeling law initiative does not benefit Mexico’s beef supply chain with the US and Canada. “Given the global inflation scenario, it is not the time to take discriminatory measures and even less so to do this between trading partners," added Anaya.
Additionally, SADER pointed out that this decision may pose a challenge to World Trade Organization (WTO) obligations to comply with country of origin labeling (COOL) for meat products. In 2009, USDA finalized labeling standards for meat that required country of origin labeling but the WTO blocked the implementation of this measure in 2015 after Canada and Mexico challenged the measure, arguing damage to trade.
In contrast, groups representing farmers and ranchers in the US were happy with the announcement. "If it says Made in the US, then it should be from cattle that have only known US soil. Consumers have the right to know where their food comes from, full stop," said Justin Tupper, President, US Cattlemen's Association. Tom Vilsack, the US Secretary of Agriculture, underscored that the proposed changes are intended to provide consumers with accurate information to make informed purchasing decisions.
A 60-day window to receive comments from beef and pork chain participants has been established. Mexico and Canada’s governments are expected to participate, as are producers and companies.
Mexico is currently the US’s second largest supplier of beef and beef-derived products, accounting for 24% of total imports. In 2022, 894,000 head of cattle were exported to the US while Mexico imported 100,000 head of cattle from the neighboring country.