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In Customs Case, Beef Jerky is 'Cured', Even If Dehydrated

In the latest battle of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States ("HTSUS"), Link Snacks, Inc. goes up against the U.S. as the two battle over the very meaning of ... beef jerky products.

What Is Beef Jerky Anyway?

Link Snacks, Inc. imports beef jerky products from New Zealand and Brazil. I've always stayed away from beef jerky because it looks nothing like beef -- but now that I understand the process, I understand why it looks that way, though I will still never eat it (barring unforeseen natural disasters that would necessitate the eating of beef jerky for survival).

The process goes something like this: the beef is sliced, cured for 24 to 48 hours, and then cooked/smoked for three-to six hours, which results in dehydrated meat. (Ew).

Categorizing Beef Jerky in the HTSUS

The United States Customs and Border Protection ("Customs") categorized beef jerky under HTSUS 1602.50.09, "Prepared or preserved meat of bovine animals, cured or pickled." Link Snacks, Inc. disagreed. Instead, Link Snacks, Inc. contended that its beef jerky product should fall under HTSUS 1602.50.2040, as "Other prepared or preserved meat."

Link Snacks argued that though the meat was briefly cured, the defining characteristic of the beef jerky is that it is dehydrated. On the other hand, the government argued that once a product meets an HTSUS classification eo nomine, there is no need to find a category further down the list. The Federal Circuit agreed with the previous decisions and reiterated, "a court may only turn to subsequent GRIs if the proper classification of the imported goods cannot be accomplished by a reference to a preceding GRI."

Repercussions

I hate this saying, but it does have its place: "It is, what it is." Companies, listen up. If you know that you want your product categorized under a particular HTSUS classification, do not use the name of one category, and then expect it to be classified under a different category. What's in a name? When it comes to customs, everything.

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