Nutrition Labeling for Meats Becomes Mandatory

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By Leslie Wade, CNN

The next time you shop at the grocery store, you may see something new– nutrition labels on meat. The same types of labels you already find on other foods.

In 1993, the U.S. Department of Agriculture made nutrition labeling voluntary for many types of raw meats. The labeling becomes mandatory on Thursday.

The new rule affects all ground meat and poultry and 40 of the most popular cuts of meat in the United States such as chicken breasts, steaks, pork chops, roasts, lamb and veal. If the nutrition facts are not on the package, as in the case of some larger cuts of meat, look for posters or signs at the meat counter for this information.

“It’s the kind of information that consumers are asking for and we just think it’s about helping people make their own best choices by having the information that they need,” says Dr. Elisabeth Hagen, Undersecretary for Food Safety at the USDA.

These labels or posters include listings of total calories, calories from fat, levels of saturated fat, protein, cholesterol, sodium and iron. In addition to showing the lean content for a particular meat, such as “90% lean,” labels must now also include the fat percentage, in this example “10% fat.”

“The information can also be used to comparison shop among products. If a consumer is concerned about total calories or saturated fat, for example, they can compare and contrast products and possibly make a selection based on the nutrient content of the food,” says Registered Dietitian Heather Mangieri, spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

And she adds that the best cuts of meat are those that provide “the best nutrient bang for our calorie buck,.”

“When it comes to beef, those cuts that include the word round are the lowest in fat, with loin being a close second. In poultry, dark meat has more fat than white meat,” Mangieri says.