ground beef

You may have noticed that your package of ground beef from the supermarket now has a familiar looking nutrition label on the front. New USDA mandates have just recently gone into effect requiring that every package of ground beef or ground turkey, and 40 of the most popular cuts of meat and poultry like chicken breasts, now carry the nutrition information label.  

So you’ll finally know how many grams of fat or cholesterol are in your steak, but what may be more interesting is what that label won’t tell you.

The USDA made the decision to add the labels as part of the new “My Plate” nutrition guidelines. They thought that terms like “85% lean” on ground beef could be confusing, and that consumers wouldn’t realize that the other 15% is fat.

But the new labels don’t address some of the most concerning problems with our meat supply. For example, you won’t find “pink slime” listed on the label, whether or not it was used. You also won’t be able to tell if the meat contains added hormones, antibiotics or GMO feed.  

You also won’t be able to easily cut through all the misleading labels meat producers are attaching to their products these days. Labels like “natural” (which only means that the meat is minimally processed) and “USDA certified” mean practically nothing, and the new nutrition label won’t provide any additional information that will help you decipher the claims.

About the only thing the nutrition information labels will help with is avoiding enhanced poultry, chicken that has been injected with salt water to plump up the meat. Check the sodium content on that nutrition label, and you should be able to compare different brands and see which have the added sodium and which don’t.

Despite the new labels, your best bet with meats is still to look for the official USDA organic seal or buy from your local farmers market.

Image: VirtualErn