A coalition of U.S. and Canadian meat industry groups lost a bid in federal court to temporarily block enforcement of U.S. country-of-origin labeling rules. The groups had argued that the COOL rules violate the U.S. Constitution by compelling speech in the form of costly and detailed labels on meat products that will confuse consumers and raise prices. U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson in Washington disagreed in a ruling, Bloomberg News reports.
“It is well established that, when the compelled speech is commercial and purely factual in nature, the speaker’s First Amendment rights are not unduly burdened ‘as long as the disclosure requirements are reasonably related to the government’s interest in preventing deception to consumers,’” Jackson said in the decision.
The judge also said that arguments on the merits of the case favor the government.
The North America Meat Association, one of the groups involved in the suit, said that the coalition intends to appeal the decision, noting that the COOL rule imposes vast burdens on the industry with little to no countervailing benefit.
“This decision will have real consequences and, at a time of rising meat prices and record low herd size, they will be damaging,” said NAMA CEO Barry Carpenter. “In the absence of preliminary relief, NAMA members and the industry at large will suffer irreparable harm.”
“We disagree strongly with the court’s decision and believe that several aspects of the ruling are susceptible to challenge,” added American Meat Institute President and CEO J. Patrick Boyle. “We intend to pursue them on appeal.”
Sources: Bloomberg, NAMA, AMI