March marks the start of nutrition labels for raw meat and poultry. The new USDA rule states that nutrition information must be made available for most ground meat and ground poultry and for popular cuts of the two.
Previously, the USDA only required nutrition labels on meat that had added ingredients like stuffing or a marinade sauce. Now, all ground meat and poultry must carry a label. Along with ground meat 40 popular cuts will also be required to post a label either on the product or on a nearby chart. Some of those cuts include beef porterhouse steaks, chicken breasts, and pork chops.
The labels will provide the calorie and fat content of the meat. If the product shows a percentage of lean meat, it must also include the percentage of fat.
The labels do not have to include amount of trans fat though. This is not a requirement as the USDA estimated that nearly 80 percent of all nutrition labels list trans fat voluntarily.
There is an exception to the new labeling rule. Small meat grinding businesses are exempt. As long as the business provides lean and fat content information and makes no other nutrition claims on the package, they do not have to provide the other content in a label.
Elisabeth Hagen, MD, USDA under secretary for food safety explains one of the many reasons for this new system.
“So now you can actually look and say, ‘OK, if I choose the ground turkey over the ground beef, or the porterhouse steak instead of going with a pork chop or some lean chicken breast, what is that going to mean to me in terms of the choices I make today and the choices I make tomorrow?'” Hagen says.
Essentially, the labels are intended to make consumers more aware of the nutritional choices they are making when purchasing raw meat. The labels offer more ease for one to know the calories and fat their meal will contain and give them the ability to plan for their healthy day or week.
The new labeling system is only expected to add less than half a penny per pound to the cost of meat and poultry. There’s really nothing to lose and so much to gain from this simple, yet so helpful, addition to our food.