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New Meat Nutrition Labels

What Do They Mean Anyway?

Meat Nutrition Label

Reviewed by Wendy Marcason, RD, LDN

Buying hamburger meat, chicken breasts or pork chops? Do you know what the nutrition labels mean? As of March 2012, certain meat products require nutrition labeling. And it's good news for shoppers. "Americans have information about the variety of nutrients available in various meat right at their fingertips in the store," says Joy Dubost, PhD, RD, CSSD, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Spokesperson. "Labeling at retail is a very important step that will make it easier for consumers to make informed purchase decisions for them as well as their families."

What's the Rule?

Under the USDA rule all ground or chopped products (e.g. ground beef, ground pork, ground turkey) must have nutrition information on the package label. In addition, 40 of the most popular whole, raw cuts of meat and poultry (a.k.a. "major cuts") will have nutrition information featured either on package labels or on display to consumers—such as a sign or brochure—at the point-of-purchase.

The rule also provides that if a ground or chopped product includes a lean percentage statement on the label, it must also display the fat percentage. "This means that packages of 90 percent lean/10 percent fat ground meat, such as beef or turkey, have to be spelled out this way. No longer can a retailer just use the 90/10 description without labeling what the ratio means, making it much clearer for consumers," explains Dubost.

What's on the Label?

The required nutrition information on the label is total calories, calories from fat, total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, dietary fiber, sugars, protein, vitamins A and C, calcium and iron.

The label also includes serving size and servings per container. Although, servings per container is not mandatory for the major cuts, but is required for ground and chopped products. The number of servings per container may be listed as varied.

While the label is required to state nutrient content as packaged, it may also include an additional, optional statement of nutrient content as consumed (cooked).

See nutrition label examples »

Having this nutrition information available allows shoppers to make a more informed choice in the meat aisle. "Consumers can compare nutrients of concern such as calories, saturated fat and sodium and also focus on positive nutrients, such as protein and essential nutrients," says Dubost. "Comparing between the various meats as well as within the same product category can assist with making the best choice for their dietary needs."

What Meats are Labeled?

Major Cuts:
Major cuts of single-ingredient, raw meat and poultry products must have nutrition information on their label or at their point-of-purchase.

Examples of major cuts:

Beef

  • chuck blade roast
  • loin top loin steak
  • rib roast large end
  • round eye round steak
  • round top round steak
  • round trip roast
  • chuck arm pot roast
  • loin sirloin steak
  • round bottom round steak
  • brisket
  • loin tenderloin steak
 

Pork

  • loin chop
  • loin country style ribs
  • pork loin top loin chop boneless
  • loin rib chop
  • spareribs
  • loin tenderloin
  • loin sirloin roast
  • shoulder blade steak
  • loin top roast boneless
   

Poultry

  • whole chicken (without neck and giblets)
  • chicken breast
  • chicken wing
  • chicken drumstick
  • chicken thigh
  • whole turkey (without necks and giblets; separate nutrient panels
    for white and dark meat permitted as an option)
  • turkey breast
  • turkey wing
  • turkey drumstick
  • turkey thigh
 

Lamb

  • shank
  • shoulder arm chop
  • shoulder blade chop
  • rib roast
  • loin chop
  • leg (whole, sirloin half, or shank half)

Veal

  • shoulder arm steak
  • shoulder blade steak
  • rib roast loin chop cutlets

Source: USDA

Ground or Chopped:
All ground or chopped meat and poultry products, with or without seasonings, require nutrition labels on the package.

Examples of ground or chopped products:

  • raw hamburger
  • ground beef patties
  • ground chicken
  • ground turkey
  • ground chicken patties
  • ground pork
  • ground lamb

For More Information

USDA Nutrition Labeling Information

Nutrition Labeling Coalition

Quick Guide to Reading a Nutrition Facts Panel