Coming in 2012: Nutrition Labels on Cuts of Meat

Good news from the USDA. Meat and poultry, which to date have not been marked with nutrition information, will begin including them in 2012:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) today 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. 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.

What you need to know:

About 40 different cuts of beef, pork, lamb and poultry will be labeled. The label will list

  • calories
  • calories from fat
  • saturated fat
  • cholesterol
  • sodium
  • protein
  • vitamins & minerals

much like the nutrition facts panels that appear on processed foods and are regulated by the FDA.

The important thing to keep in mind is portion size vs. serving size. Many of us eat portions that are 2 to 3 times the recommended serving size as defined by the USDA. Which means that a 250 calorie steak can easily balloon to 500-750 calories.

What to do at the supermarket:

We have an entire year to wait for this. In the meantime, keep looking for the leaner cuts of meat. Each gram of protein is only 4 calories, whereas fat is more than double at 9 calories per gram.

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  • Bill M

    How will this work for fattier meats when the proportion of fat can very in the same cut? For example, one sirloin could have more fat than another. Will they just use an average?

  • Deb

    Does this mean that we will see the sodium levels on meats that have been brined or injected with salt and other chemicals? Yeah!

  • candice

    Bill, I’m wondering the same thing…how can the labels really be accurate? Deb, Hopefully they do put this on the label, but I hope people are prepared for what they find. Hopefully everyone realizes that most meat you get from the grocery store is loaded with dye (beef) and salt/preservative.

    I’m excited to read more about the labels, just not sure how it works yet. I don’t think it will effect how much, or even what meat I choose to eat since I feel I’m pretty well informed, but maybe to the McDonalds-aholic out there it will shed some light on actual calories vs calories percieved.


  • J in VA

    If they don’t use averages, how will a small farmer possibly be able to afford testing of each product? Or will they be exempt if they sell a small quantity? I don’t buy meat at the grocery–I only buy from small farms where I can ask questions about the product of the one that produced it.

  • Carol

    Can assure you the nutrition data won’t be required to be from laboratory testing (prohibitively expensive, not to mention pointless, since animals, like other living things, have lots of variability in their makeup… and the butchering process doesn’t result in equal amounts of fat after trimming same cuts of meat). The data will be averages from existing USDA data for a typical sample of each cut of meat. That means it is not very accurate as to the specific piece of meat in the package, but will allow useful comparisons between different cuts of meat (e.g., dark meat chicken leg with skin vs. without skin, or vs. light meat).

  • Victoria

    This nutrition labeling of meats is pointless to me. The only thing I need to know is if the cow/chicken/pig was raised humanely, in its natural habitat, with normal food it would naturally eat on its own in the wild, and humanely slaughtered. If the any of these animals were brought up in factory farms or CAFO’s…I would want to know THAT. Then I would know it was fed an unnatural, chemical diet that also consisted mainly of corn and soy, it was probably raised in a cage too small for it to simply turn around in or spread its wings, or it was forced to spend day in and day out of its entire life knee deep in it’s own feces. Give me a completely natural, humanely raised, grass-fed, grass-finished piece of beef and I would KNOW that meat is the most nutritious piece of beef on earth. No labels needed.

  • Lori A. Kaley, MS, RD, LD, MSB

    Kudos to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service
    (FSIS) for taking this step to provide nutrition label information on 40 of the most popular cuts of meat. Guiding Stars, a leader in nutrition guidance programs, has been indicating the nutritional quality of fresh meats as well as poultry and seafood for consumers since 2006. Guiding Stars uses information from the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Nutrient database to assign meats, poultry and seafood 0, 1 (good), 2 (better), or 3 (best) stars. These star ratings are based on the negative attributes of saturated fats, cholesterol, trans fats, added sodium and added sugars, and the positive attributes of vitamins and minerals present in these foods and receive ratings without regard to brand, price or manufacturer. You can find Guiding Stars listed on scale label stickers on packages of fresh meats, poultry and seafood as well as on signage at point-of-purchase in fresh departments in supermarkets that use Guiding Stars. For a list of partner supermarkets and other venues where you can find Guiding Stars, please visit At anytime, you can find Guiding Stars for meats, poultry, seafood and over 70,000 food and beverage items using the Food Finder at

    Lori A. Kaley, MS, RD, LD, MSB
    Guiding Stars Scientific Advisor

  • Carrie

    How about revolt against factory farms? And buy organic grass fed beef and organic meat period. They no longer SHOULD be entiled to take my money or the hard working mans money