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NY 891238

November 5, 1993



TARIFF NO.: 0201.30.6000

Ms. Loraine K. Feith
Senior Officer for Commercial & Regulatory Affairs New Zealand Embassy
P.O. Box 11737
Washington, D.C. 20008

RE: The tariff classification of chilled boneless BEEF from New Zealand.

Dear Ms. Feith:

In your letter dated October 5, 1993, you requested a tariff classification ruling on behalf of Weddel New Zealand Ltd.

The product in question is described as chilled, marinated boneless BEEF, consisting of three types of meat cuts which have been tumbled in a solution of 2 percent sodium lactate and 2 percent water. The cuts in question will be TOP ROUNDS with caps on, or with caps off, and CHUCKS 90 CL (chemical lean).

In processing, premium grade boneless top rounds and chucks will be trimmed to buyer specifications. Generally speaking, these trimming procedures remove the gracilis membrane, veins, side muscle and channel fat. Less than one-quarter inch is left on each cut. The resulting products, which are uniformly oval in shape, are approximately 95 percent fat-free. After this initial preparation, the trimmed pieces are combined in a mixture consisting of 96 percent meat and 4 percent solution, consisting of 2 percent water and 2 percent sodium lactate. The meat is tumbled in the solution for thirty minutes at a temperature of 8 to 10 degrees Centigrade (46.4 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit), at which time all of the solution will have been absorbed by the meat.

After the tumbling process, the meat cuts are removed from the mixer, then individually vacuum packed in heat-sealed cryovac plastic bags. The use of cryovac packaging, in combination with the use of sodium lactate, is said to impart an extended shelf life of about 12 weeks to the product. This extended shelf life is noted as a critical selling point for the buyer. After individual packaging in bags, these cuts are packed in master cartons of about 44 pounds each, with about 3 or 4 pieces per carton. Finally, the packaged product is held, chilled, until shipping.

After importation, these top rounds and chucks will be seasoned, cooked and further prepared by the U.S. importer for resale in the institutional, restaurant or retail trade as oven roasted beef, either as pot roast (chucks) or as roast beef (top rounds).

The classification of merchandise under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States, Annotated, is governed by the General Rules of Interpretation. The first General Rule requires that the classification of goods be determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes. The Explanatory Notes to the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System, which represent the official interpretation of the tariff at the international level, facilitate classification under the Harmonized Tariff by offering guidance in understanding the scope of the headings and the General Rules.

The "General" notes to Chapter 16 in the Explanatory Notes to the Harmonized Tariff describe various products within the scope of this chapter:

"This Chapter covers prepared foodstuffs obtained by processing meat, meat offal, (e.g., feet, skins, hearts, tongues, livers, guts, stomachs), blood, fish (including skins thereof), crustaceans, molluscs or other aquatic invertebrates. The Chapter covers such products which have been prepared or preserved by processes not provided for in Chapter 2 or 3, for example, products which have been:


(3) Prepared or preserved in the form of extracts, juices or marinades, prepared from fish eggs as caviar or caviar substitutes, merely covered with batter or bread crumbs, truffled, seasoned (e.g., with both pepper and salt), etc." Bold-face supplied for emphasis.

While the Explanatory Notes indicate that seasoned meat is classifiable in Chapter 16, they provide little guidance in the interpretation of that term for tariff purposes. The American College Dictionary, C.L. Barnhart, Edit. in Chief (New York: Random House, 1970), defines the noun "seasoning" as "something that seasons, esp. salt, spices, herbs, or other condiments." The verb "season" is defined, with regard to food, as "...--v.t. 10. to heighten or improve the flavor of (food) by adding condiments, spices, herbs, or the like.

A significant reference which addresses the use of the term in the context of tariff classification is the Annex to Official Journal of the European Communities, published May 25, 1993. This Annex includes the "Additional notes" to Chapter 2 in the Community tariff. "Additional note" 6.(a) in the Annex states that, for classification purposes,

"a. Uncooked seasoned meats fall within Chapter 16. 'Seasoned meat' shall be uncooked meat that has been seasoned either in depth or over the whole surface of the product with sea- soning either visible to the naked eye or clearly distin- guishable by taste.
b. Products falling within heading No 0210 to which seasoning has been added during the process of preparation remain classified therein provided that the addition of seasoning has not changed their character."

Regarding the use of a sodium lactate solution in the instant product, we do not believe that this additive would be considered a seasoning, for tariff purposes, in these meat cuts. The Con- densed Chemical Dictionary, 10th ed., rev. by Gessner G. Hawley (New York: 1981), describes sodium lactate, on page 944, as a "[c]olorless or yellowish syrupy liquid, very hygroscopic. Soluble in water..." and indicates the range of uses for this additive as a "[h]ygroscopic agent" [for absorbing or attracting water]; "glycerol substitute; plasticizer for casein; corrosion inhibitor in alcohol antifreeze." It appears, first, that the sodium lactate, in the instant application, acts to retain moisture in the meat, thus maintaining the freshness of these cuts for a longer period. Further, while sodium lactate is a salt, Customs has previously ruled that certain beef, which had been treated by the addition of two percent by weight of salt, is properly classifiable as a product of Chapter 2. See classification ruling dated June 11, 1993, file number 886277.

In light of the foregoing, we are of the opinion that the tumbling of these chucks and top round beef cuts in a solution of 2 percent by weight of water and 2 percent by weight of sodium lactate, as described in your submission, does not result in a product "that has been seasoned either in depth or over the whole surface of the product with seasoning either visible to the naked eye or clearly distinguishable by taste." The essential character of these cuts remains as chilled beef. Chilled meat is defined, on page 14, in the General Notes in the Explanatory Notes to Chapter 2, as meat which has been "reduced in temperature generally to around 0oC, without being frozen." Such product is provided for in Chapter 2.

Accordingly, the applicable subheading for these Top Rounds and Chucks will be 0201.30.6000, Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTS), which provides for Meat of bovine animals, fresh or chilled:...Boneless:...Other. The rate of duty will be 4.4 cents per kilogram.

This ruling is being issued under the provisions of Section 177 of the Customs Regulations (19 C.F.R. 177).

A copy of this ruling letter should be attached to the entry documents filed at the time this merchandise is imported. If the documents have been filed without a copy, this ruling should be brought to the attention of the Customs officer handling the transaction.


Jean F. Maguire
Area Director

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