As of March 1 fresh meat and poultry has to carry the Nutrition Facts label we see on other packaged goods. Not all packages have to contain a label but the information has to be on a poster or in a brochure at the store. However, all ground meats must be individually labeled. You should be seeing Nutrition Facts for the most popular cuts of beef, chicken, lamb and pork.
These Nutrition Facts labels will make it easier to identify what meat and poultry items are the leanest. The label has to include calories in a defined portion size, total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrate and total protein.
The USDA’s rules use averages for the nutritional data. Certain factors can make a difference in the nutritional data such as portion size, cooking method, grade of meat, and non-trimmed fat.
For most whole cuts of meat the nutritional facts are based on the three-ounce cooked portion. However, shrinkage during cooking of some cuts of meat can make a big difference. Ground meat labels are based on a four ounce raw portion which cooks down to about three ounces.
The cooking method can reduce the fat content of the meat, thus affecting the numbers. The labels give the numbers for healthier cooking methods such as broiling, grilling, roasting on a rack and sautéing.
Grades of meat contain different amounts of fat marbling in the meat which affects the numbers. Thus, you will see different numbers for meat from choice to select grades. The Facts label assumes that all but one-eighth inch of fat has been trimmed away. This may not be the case so the trimming the fat can save you in fat content and calories.
Understanding the labeling on ground meats will be easier. The new label will include the lean and fat percentages by weight. You will be able to check the saturated fat per serving to decide which ground meat is leaner.
When shopping look for these leaner cuts of meat: eye round steak and roasts, sirloin steaks, ground beef that is 90% lean, pork tenderloin, skinless chicken and turkey breasts. Make sure your portion size is not oversized. A portion of meat is usually considered three ounces which is about the size of a deck of cards. Happy Shopping!
Tufts University, . No more meat mysteries, Health & Nutrition Letter, The Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University, March 2012, #3(1) 3.