New: Nutrition Labels, Now on Meat

Nutrition Label Mandatory on Raw Meat

Photo: CNN

Nutrition labels are now available on 40 cuts of meat at your local grocer’s. The USDA mandated labeling came into effect this week, almost 20 years after the FDA mandated nutrition label appeared on packaged foods. There is no need for an ingredient list, as the product is itself a single ingredient.

This is a good thing for several reasons:

1. Serving size – we sometimes forget that the single most important factor in weight management is portion control. In the picture above we see that the serving size is 4 oz. That’s probably a lot less than many people actually consume. The calories on the label reflect a single serving. If you plan to eat more, the calories (and the nutrient values) need to be adjusted accordingly.

2. Saturated fat – you can see that even a “lean” cut of meat contains one third of your daily max for saturated fats. (Cholesterol is also high, but for most people the cholesterol in food is not translated to cholesterol in the blood. It’s the saturated fat that raises bad cholesterol levels (LDL).

3. Protein – meats are a great source of protein. In the example above, just 4 ounces give you 21 grams (25-35% of your required daily value). Most Americans get more than enough of their protein needs. As you can see, protein is not a difficult nutrient to consume.

Have you seen the new nutrition labels on meats? What do you think?

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  • fud

    #2 is incomplete!

    • http://www.fooducate.com/blog Fooducate

      fixed. thanks!

  • http://twitter.com/katsugankz John Marshall

    Sweet! This was one of the harder things when managing what I eat. Glad to see that they’re doing this.

  • Cosmos284

    You made an error, ” just 4 servings give” should be “just 4 ounces give.”  It’s an important distinction as many people do eat 16 ounces of meat as a serving.

  • nan henn

    Great! now if grocery stores would stock pastured meat raised without antibiotics or hormones…

  • Brian

    I think this would be a much better label if they discussed where the food was sourced from, and/or how the food was raised. I like how Whole Foods labels their meat on a animal humane scale. There are major differences in fat content between grass-fed beef and CAFO beef for instance. The amounts of fat can vary wildly from animal to animal as well. And the kinds of fat vary as well, for instance grass-fed beef contains a much better ratio of n-3 fats.

    • Tom Arr

      It’s impossible to be humane with something that is NOT human!

      • Anonymous

        Wrong: Humane – characterized by tenderness, compassion, and sympathy forpeople and animals, especially for the suffering or distressed:humane treatment of horses. (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/humane)

      • Brian

        Now that I think about it, I think it’s called animal welfare, or something like that… a technicality. You get the point.

  • E’s mom

    “There is no need for an ingredient list, as the product is itself a single ingredient.”  This is not always the case.  Many meat items have added seasonings and flavorings.  These added items usually contain some sort of preservative such as BHT, BHGA or THBQ.  We have to search highand low for a “minimally processed” meat…one where the meat product is the only ingredient.  Something to keep in mind.

    • E’s mom

      *BHA, no G in there

    • Brian

      Good point. They should also be reporting when dyes are being used to make them look like fresh meat.

    • Carol

       The new law applies to single ingredient raw meats only. Cooked and multi-ingredient meats (e.g., with seasonings/salt/preservatives added) are already required to provide Nutrition Facts — since 1993.

  • Anonymous

    Does this law apply only to pre-packaged meats? I buy most of my meat from an old-school local butcher. I’m guessing that he won’t be required to stick a nutrition label on the paper he wraps my steaks in.

    • Carol

       It depends. If the meat comes from a slaughterhouse/packer that is small enough to get an exemption from labeling, then the meat doesn’t need nutrition labeling… unless any health/nutrition claims are made and unless we’re talking about ground meat. If they are not exempt, they need to provide Nutrition Facts, but it can be via brochure where nutrition is shown for 4 oz portions of each cut or type of ground meat. Keep in mind that this nutrition info is usually what is provided by USDA to retailers/packers as ROUGH estimates/averages for a generic cut of that kind of meat… don’t expect the nutrition data to exactly match the actual piece of meat you are buying (no two animals, or even same animal parts, are exactly alike). See USDA database for meats here: http://www.ars.usda.gov/Services/docs.htm?docid=18961

  • Cate

    I am confused.  Why are there trans fats in there??

    • Brian

      I’m not sure about the specifics of the trans fats found in animal products, but I’ve read that these are not harmful to you compared to the trans fats found in processed oils… they are naturally occurring instead of being processed into that form. I’ll see if I can find a resource and post it…

      • Carol

         That’s right. Naturally-occurring trans-fat in meat, poultry and dairy do not behave the same as artificial trans-fats, and generally are not a health concern.

  • Tom Arr

    85% is NOT a lean cut, that’s ground chuck/round, the cheapest stuff….lean is 96% or better! And who doesn’t drain the fat off after browning some ground meat?!? Thus greatly reducing the amount of fat in the finished product.

    • Brian

      When I brown the grass-fed beef I get from a local farmer, it is so lean, I almost need to add fat to it in order to get it to brown properly… it’s pretty common practice for grocery stores to add fat to ground beef, because the fat is the cheap part. It makes it much more profitable for them.

      • Tom Arr

         How is that relevant? 85% is still not a lean cut, and the richy rich stuff you buy from some isolated elitist co-op would fall into the category of lean.

    • Carol

       True. USDA says you can only provide %lean/%fat info for cuts that are NOT low in fat. Apparently this requirement is only confusing consumers, who still think any mention of “%lean” means the meat is lean…when it isn’t. But at least now ground meats MUST have Nutrition Facts in addition to any percent lean/fat declarations.

  • Lauren

    Agree with many of the comments, I don’t care if my meat is 4oz or 14 oz if I don’t know how it was raised, what it ate and what was (or was not) administered to it I am not buying it. I don’t think portion size, grams of fat etc are the crucial issues when it comes to buying meat. I do think that it should be mentioned if chicken shot up with a salt solution and what preservatives used. As I type this getting very turned off to meat oh well.

  • http://twitter.com/QuipsTravails m_hays

    I think this is great, not just because we need to know stuff about our meat – but we also need to know when there’s other stuff in it!  One of my pet peeves is the amount of added water and salt that are so ambiguously referred to in many meat labels.

  • Tom Arr

    humane
     

    Pronunciation: /hjʊˈmeɪn/
    adjective 1having or showing compassion or benevolence: regulations ensuring the humane treatment of animals
    inflicting the minimum of pain: humane methods of killing 2 formal (of a branch of learning) intended to have a civilizing effect on people: the humane education of literary study

    Derivatives humanelyadverb humanenessnoun(This is the important part)—->Origin: late Middle English: the earlier form of human, restricted to the senses above in the 18th century <—In other words, as we continued to corrupt pervert the perception of the unique station of humans in this world, other definitions crept into what was once purely singular in nature.

    • http://www.jimrehs.net/ Jim Schmidt

      So language evolves as do speakers of the language. Well, at least the speakers that don’t have an issue with putting their pet dog down, wait for it now……

      humanely.

  • Bg

    I would love to have a sticker on a package of meat that would tell me aprox. how many servings are in this particular package. I love to have a nice cut of steak once in a while and of course I will scarf down the whole thing and afterwards I feel gluttonous and stuffed leaving me to wonder how many people should have really shared my protein :P I know most of you will say to just look at the weight and do a simple division but really … How many of us will do that . However , a bright yellow sticker that says “this should feed 6 people” would make me think and reconsider my portion size ..

    • PM

      Your idea is definitely a good one. And simply executed…adding a standard chart showing weight ranges and the # persons fed

  • http://www.facebook.com/jonathan.b.bechtel Jonathan Bechtel

    I think these food labels are a step in the right direction, but all labeling laws will suffer from a common problem: because the rules are fixed there will always be ways to eventuall get around them.

    And the whole point of a label is to condense complex information into bite-sized morsels of information. However, that’ll mean there’s always room to shift things around to make foods appear healthier than they are.

    • http://www.jimrehs.net/ Jim Schmidt

      The bigger issue is will people utilize the labels. It’s not like they are something new, they’ve been on the processed foods for a long time. Unfortunately people are knowledgeable about what is listed or they don’t even look.

      It is understandable why people get perplexed looking at the list of ingredients and not being able to pronounce them. More people need to come to this site.

      Yes, wherever there is money involved the players will try and do everything they can to maximize profit. Profits shrinking and having a bad public image will drive some crazy. Sort of like the corn folk who wanted to change High Fructose Corn Syrup name from what it is to I believe Corn Sugar. The Sugar group wasn’t going to let that happen without a fight.

    • http://www.jimrehs.net/ Jim Schmidt

      The bigger issue is will people utilize the labels. It’s not like they are something new, they’ve been on the processed foods for a long time. Unfortunately people are knowledgeable about what is listed or they don’t even look.

      It is understandable why people get perplexed looking at the list of ingredients and not being able to pronounce them. More people need to come to this site.

      Yes, wherever there is money involved the players will try and do everything they can to maximize profit. Profits shrinking and having a bad public image will drive some crazy. Sort of like the corn folk who wanted to change High Fructose Corn Syrup name from what it is to I believe Corn Sugar. The Sugar group wasn’t going to let that happen without a fight.

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