USDA Makes Meat Nutritional Labels Stick

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USDA Makes Meat Nutritional Labels Stick


The start of a New Year has brought for big news for meat marketers with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s long-awaited release of final rules for the labeling of meat and poultry, for which packages of ground beef ground poultry must bear Nutrition Facts labels by January 2012.

While most fresh meat products already have such labeling, consumers can now expect to see nutritional panels with the number of calories and grams of total fat and saturated fat on 40 of the most commonly purchased single-ingredient cuts of beef, lamb, poultry and pork, including boneless chicken breast, brisket and ground meats like hamburger and turkey, a product contains.

The nutrition facts panels will include the number of calories and the grams of total and saturated fat in the product, the USDA said. "Additionally, 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."

While the news generated ample favorable coverage in the consumer press, the Center for Science in the Public Interest – which has been urging the USDA for the labeling requirements for about a decade -- says the new meat labeling rules fall short in light of the term "lean," which “misleads consumers into thinking that…80 percent lean ground beef is lower in fat than it really is.

CSPI bases its primary beef about the term on the FDA’s definition of "low fat," which cannot be used on products that contain more than 3 grams of fat per serving. “When consumer and health organizations opposed ‘percent lean’ claims in the 1990s, USDA shelved its proposed rule,” said CSPI. “Now the agency is allowing the claims because, it says, consumers are used to seeing them.”

Meanwhile, after working for years with grocers on nutrition labeling programs to provide consumer information through websites and educational materials, the Beef Checkoff Program is poised and ready to continue helping retailers with new tools to enhance nutrition labeling POS.

Read on for more information about new meat nutrition labels, as well as a variety of other timely retail meat news and information, in this week’s newsletter, and be sure to check back often for ongoing coverage of other merchandising materials that will soon be available from other trade groups and suppliers.