USDA to require new labels on meat and poultry


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By Sara Wyant

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Washington, Dec. 29 - More information about the the amount of calories and nutrients contained in popular meat and poultry products will be required on package labels, starting in 2012.


The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced that it will be making important nutritional information readily available to consumers on 40 of the most popular cuts of meat and poultry products, effective Jan. 1, 2012. Under a new rule, packages of ground or chopped meat and poultry will feature nutrition facts panels on their labels. Additionally, whole, raw cuts of meat and poultry will also have nutrition facts panels either on their package labels or available for consumers at the point-of-purchase.


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"More and more, busy American families want nutrition information that they can quickly and easily understand," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "We need to do all we can to provide nutrition labels that will help consumers make informed decisions.”


Nutrition labels were first required on many food products in 1993, but meat and poultry products were not required to include the information on packages.


The nutrition facts panels will include the number of calories and the grams of total fat and saturated fat a product contains. Any product that lists a lean percentage statement, such as "76% lean," on its label also will list its fat percentage, making it easier for consumers to understand the amounts of lean protein and fat in their purchase. The panels should provide consumers with sufficient information at the store to assess the nutrient content of the major cuts, enabling them to select meat and poultry products that fit into a healthy diet that meets their family's or their individual needs.


Examples of the major cuts of raw, single-ingredient meat and poultry products include, but are not limited to, whole or boneless chicken breasts and other pieces, or beef whole cuts such as brisket or tenderloin steak. Examples of ground or chopped meat and poultry products include, but are not limited to, hamburger and ground turkey. This rule is effective on Jan. 1, 2012. The Federal Register notice announcing this rule can be found at


The National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) Executive Director of Legislative Affairs Kristina Butts issued the following statement on the final rule published in the Federal Register on Dec. 29, 2010, titled “Nutrition Labeling of Single-Ingredient Products or Chopped Meat and Poultry Products.”


“NCBA supports nutrition labeling on beef products and is pleased to see USDA moving forward with this effort. According to comments submitted by NCBA, cattle producers support the inclusion of all nutrients found in beef being included on the label. We believe this information is helpful in educating the public on the important contribution beef makes to a healthy diet. While NCBA believes consumers have the right to know what nutrients are found in meat, we also realize retailers and others in the food-production chain will face significant new costs associated with this final rule. We wish USDA would have granted our request for an 18-24 month implementation period, and will continue our longstanding history of working with retailers, consumers and USDA on the implementation of the rule.”


American Meat Institute Senior Vice President of Regulatory Affairs and General Counsel Mark Dopp said the changes may provide “pleasant surprises for many consumers in the meat case,”


“In addition to helping consumers compare meat and poultry cuts, the labels will also help showcase the high protein, vitamin and mineral value in all meat and poultry products,” Dopp added.


For example, he said that skinless, boneless chicken breasts are widely recognized as lean with 165 calories and 3.57 grams of fat per 100-gram serving, but many consumers don't know that there are many lean pork and beef cuts that offer similar, good nutrition. A serving of beef eye of round roast has 166 calories and 4.87 grams of total fat and a serving of pork tenderloin has 143 calories and 3.51 grams of fat.

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