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Classification of Imported Beef Jerky Upheld by Appeals Court

Wednesday, February 05, 2014
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld Feb. 3 a Court of International Trade decision that certain beef jerky products are properly classified as cured beef under HTSUS 1602.50.09 (4.5% duty). The plaintiff argued for classification as other prepared or preserved beef under HTSUS 1602.50.2040 (1.4% duty).

The products at issue consist of sliced, cooked, cured and dried meat seasoned with salt and other spices and flavors. The manufacturing process for the imported jerky includes curing the sliced boneless beef in a mixture of seasoning, sodium nitrate and water for 24 to 48 hours, after which the meat is cooked and smoked for three to six hours. Once placed in airtight bags, the product has a shelf life of 18–20 months.

The plaintiff asserted that the drying process changes the beef jerky into a different product from conventional cured meat products, such as packaged ham and roast beef. For support, the plaintiff pointed to differences in the way the Department of Agriculture classifies meat products depending on the moisture content.

However, the CAFC agreed with the government that another agency’s non-tariff regulations are not dispositive and that the beef jerky is described eo nomine as cured beef. HTSUS 1602.50.09 does not draw distinctions based on whether or not the meat is dehydrated, the court stated, and the only inquiry is whether or not the meat has been cured, which the jerky at issue indisputably has. The court adds that although there is a respectable argument that the further step of dehydration affects the beef jerky product beyond the curing process, it does not overcome the simple and straightforward classification of the jerky as cured beef products.

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