House Panel Votes to Repeal Country-Origin Meat Labeling Law

WASHINGTON (AP) -

A House committee has voted to get rid of labels on packages of meat that say where the animals were born, raised and slaughtered.

The House Agriculture Committee voted 38-6 to repeal a “country-of-origin” labeling law for beef and poultry Wednesday — just two days after the World Trade Organization ruled against parts of the law. The labels tell consumers what countries the meat is from: for example, “born in Canada, raised and slaughtered in the United States” or “born, raised and slaughtered in the United States.”

The WTO ruled Monday that the U.S. labels put Canadian and Mexican livestock at a disadvantage, rejecting a U.S. appeal after a similar WTO decision last year.

The Obama administration had already revised the labels once to try to comply with previous WTO rulings. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has said it’s now up to Congress to change the law to avoid retaliation — such as extra tariffs — from the two neighbor countries.

The law was initially written at the behest of northern U.S. ranchers who compete with the Canadian cattle industry. It also was backed by some consumer advocates who say it helps shoppers know where their food comes from.

But many in the U.S. meat industry — including meat processors who buy animals from abroad — have called for a repeal of the law, which they have fought for years, including unsuccessfully in federal court.