The federal government has proposed requiring Nutrition Facts panels on all ground meat and poultry products and nutrition information posters, brochures or labels for whole muscle cuts such as steaks, roasts, pork chops and chicken breasts.
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) announced July 17th that it supports the federal government’s proposed fresh meat nutrition labeling rule. In its comments on the proposed rule, NCBA also requested that the government proceed one step further and require the inclusion of meat’s significant nutrients on Nutrition Facts panels, posters or brochures.

“Beef is truly one of nature’s best tasting multivitamins,” says Mary K. Young, MS, RD, executive director of nutrition for NCBA. “We want Americans to know about all of the nutrients they get from beef.”

NCBA’s research shows that very few consumers know beef is a source of zinc and B-vitamins in addition to protein and iron. In fact, according to government consumption data, beef is the number one source of zinc, vitamin B12 and protein in American diets, and the number three source of iron after fortified cereals and breads. These nutrients play key roles in growth, cognitive development and immune function.

The current labeling guidelines, identical to those for packaged foods, require calories, calories from fat, total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, fiber, sugars, protein, iron, vitamin A, vitamin C and calcium.

“Consumers want to know what’s in their food, not what’s not in their food. Naturally, meat does not supply vitamin A, vitamin C or calcium, so these would appear as zero on the label. Yet, beef is an excellent source of zinc, vitamin B12 and selenium and a good source or vitamin B6, iron, niacin and riboflavin, and these don’t have to be listed as the rule stands right now,” said Young. Research shows more than three out of four consumers preferred a label that included these additional nutrients.

If the rule is approved, ground beef packages will continue to be labeled by a percent lean and percent fat identifier in addition to the Nutrition Facts label.

For whole muscle cuts, such as steaks, roasts and chops, the proposed rule would allow supermarkets to post nutrition information on posters, brochures or labels. While ground meats have greater consistency and uniformity, whole muscle cuts have inherent variability due to the number of cuts, grade classifications and fat trim levels, explains beef industry representatives. That means, there would be more than 3,300 different labels on meat packages.

“The beef industry believes 3,300 different labels could make the meat case endlessly confusing for consumers. Posters and brochures help shoppers use the information the way they want to, which is to be able to compare various cuts of meat and poultry clearly and easily,” said Mark Thomas, vice president, consumer marketing, NCBA.

“People enjoy eating beef. With the additional information that would be provided with this rule, they can feel good about eating it, too,” said Thomas.