On March 1, 2012, a federal rule requiring nutrition labeling of meat went into effect. The rule was originally proposed back in 2001. The final rule requires sellers to provide consumers with nutrition information for the “major cuts” of single-ingredient raw meat and poultry products, unless an exemption applies. Nutrition information for these products will be required either on their label or at their point-of-purchase (such as by a flyer or a sign). The final rule also requires nutrition labels on all ground or chopped meat and poultry products, with or without added seasonings, unless an exemption applies.
There is a small business exemption for labeling of ground and chopped products, but there is no such exemption for providing nutrition information for major cuts.
Below are some frequently asked questions about the new rule. Please note that this is not legal advice. It is provided for your information only, please consult an attorney in your state if you have any legal questions.
Q: I’m a small farmer selling on-farm or at a farmers’ market. Does the new rule on nutrition information for meat apply to me?
A: Yes, for the major cuts (see below). There is an exemption for products that are custom prepared or slaughtered, which may apply if you’re selling whole or half animals. Another exemption that may apply is for products that are intended for further processing, such as when you sell to a store or restaurant that does its own cutting. See below for a list of exemptions.
For ground meat, there is an additional exemption for “small businesses.”
Q: Do I have to put a label on each package of meat?
A: No, not for whole cuts. You can provide the information on a flyer or brochure or a sign at your market booth or farm stand. For ground products, though, unless you qualify for an exemption (such as the small business exemption), the requirement is for actual labeling.
Q: Do I have to test my meat to establish its nutritional content?
A: No. You can use the standard information provided by USDA.
Q: Where can I get the standard information?
A: The agency has downloadable fliers with the standard nutrient information at: www.fsis.usda.gov/Regulations_&_Policies/Nutrition_Labeling/content_Nutrition_Labeling.asp#Nutrition_Chart
Q: What about grass-fed meats?
A: The USDA provides only one set of standard information for each species of animal. Notice that the standard nutrition label covers only calories, fats, protein, carbohydrates, Vitamins A and C, calcium and iron. Many of the differences between grain-fed and grass-fed animals (such as extra omega-3’s, higher levels of CLA, and higher levels of vitamin E) wouldn’t be reflected in the nutrition chart even if you did your own testing. You may wish to have two flyers available – one with the standard USDA information and one with information about grass-fed meats (in general, not making claims about your specific product) from sites such as eatwild.com.
Q: What are major cuts of single-ingredient, raw meat products covered by the rule?
Beef: Beef chuck blade roast, beef loin top loin steak, beef rib roast large end, beef round eye round steak, beef round top round steak, beef round trip roast, beef chuck arm pot roast, beef loin sirloin steak, beef round bottom round steak, beef brisket (whole, flat half, or point half), beef rib steak small end, beef loin tenderloin steak.
Pork: pork loin chop, pork loin country style ribs, pork loin top loin chop boneless, pork loin rib chop, pork spareribs, pork loin tenderloin, pork loin sirloin roast, pork shoulder blade steak, pork loin top roast boneless
Lamb: lamb shank, lamb shoulder arm chop, lamb shoulder blade chop, lamb rib roast, lamb loin chop, lamb leg (whole, sirloin half, or shank half)
Veal: veal shoulder arm steak, veal shoulder blade steak, veal rib roast, veal loin chop, and veal cutlets.
Poultry: the whole chicken or turkey (without neck or giblets), breast, wing, drumstick, or thigh.
Q: What are the exemptions for providing nutritional information for major cuts?
A: Exemptions for labeling of major cuts include:
- Products intended for further processing, provided that the product’s labeling bears no nutrition claims or nutrition information;
- Products that are not for sale to consumers, provided that the product’s labeling bears no nutrition claims or nutrition information;
- Products in individually wrapped packages of less than ½ ounce net weight, provided that the product’s labeling bears no nutrition claims or nutrition information;
- Products that are custom slaughtered or prepared; or
- Products intended for export.
Q: What are the exemptions for labeling ground or chopped products?
A: All of the exemptions for labeling major cuts apply, and there are four additional exemptions:
- Ground or chopped products produced by a company that qualifies for the small business exemption;
- Products that are ground or chopped at an individual customer’s request and that are prepared and served at retail, provided that the product’s labeling bears no nutrition claims or nutrition information;
- Ground or chopped products in packages that have a total surface area for labeling of less than 12 square inches, provided that the product’s labeling bears no nutrition claims or nutrition information;
- Ground products produced by small businesses that use statements or percent fat and percent lean on the label, provided that they include no other nutrition claims or nutrition information
Q: What is the small business exemption?
A: The small business exemption covers to any establishment (including retail facility) that has 500 or fewer employees. Any product a small business produces at less than 100,000 lbs per year is exempt from nutrition labeling as long as the product includes no nutrition information or claims. Ground “Product” would be designated by different formulas/different nutrient profiles. For example, 10% fat ground beef is a different product and has a different nutrient profile than 20% fat ground beef. Therefore, each would be counted separately toward 100,000 lbs of product.
Q: What if I qualify for an exemption, but I want to label my meat as “lean” or “high in Vitamin __”?
A: In most cases, if you make any nutritional claims for your products, you most likely will have to do the full nutritional labeling. You can label the percentage of fat in ground products without having to provide the full label if you are a small business.
The agency has a powerpoint with a general overview available at www.fsis.usda.gov/PDF/Nutrition_Labeling_Overview.pdf
More detailed information is available at www.fsis.usda.gov/Regulations_&_Policies/Nutrition_Labeling/content_Nutrition_Labeling.asp#Nutrition_Chart