NM Judge Rejects COOL Lawsuit
A New Mexico federal judge has permanently dismissed a pair of lawsuits against the Big 4 meat packers. The defendants are Tyson Foods, Inc., JBS USA, Cargill Meat Solutions and National Beef Packing Company.
The decision was appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.
Two separate lawsuits were filed in February in New Mexico’s U.S. District Court – one by a cattleman and one by a consumer – which were subsequently consolidated. Both suits alleged that labeling of beef products “Product of the USA” misleads consumers because the label is accepted even if the animal was raised and harvested in another country. According to USDA regulations, the beef needs only be further processed in the U.S. for the label to be used. The lawsuits claim packers have imported $6.2 billion worth of cattle/beef per year since 2015.
On Thursday, the District Judge granted the defendants motion to dismiss, agreeing that the federal labeling law supersedes the state of New Mexico’s laws regarding consumer protection. Since the labels had been approved by USDA they had already been determined to be lawful at the federal level.
The cases were dismissed with prejudice — meaning they can't be refiled — prior to their being appealed.
Rancher Michael Lucero and consumer Robin Thornton sought compensatory and punitive damages treble the compensatory damages and an injunction prohibiting packers from continuing the alleged consumer deception.