A year from now, consumers will be able to compare nutrition facts on packages of fresh, raw meat in grocery stores.
Packages of ground or chopped meat and poultry will have the familiar black and white nutrition facts panels on their labels, according to the USDA announcement. Whole raw cuts of meat and poultry will either have the nutrition facts on the labels, on posted signs or at the check out.
"More and more, busy American families want nutrition information that they can quickly and easily understand," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was quoted in the release. "We need to do all we can to provide nutrition labels that will help consumers make informed decisions."
The nutrition facts panels will include the number of calories and the grams of total fat and saturated fat in a standard 4-ounce serving of meat. Nutrition labels will also list the products' cholesterol, sodium, protein and vitamin content.
Nutrition facts labels were first required on some foods in 1993; meat was included under a voluntary provision.
A Los Angeles Times article about the USDA's new rule included background provided by Christine Bruhn, director of the Center for Consumer Research at UC Davis. She said the information on the labels will be taken from a database of national averages, which means the actual amount of fat, calories or other nutrients may vary significantly from, for example, one chicken breast to the next, depending on how the birds were raised and what they were fed.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest said the new law isn't going far enough. The food policy watchdog group takes issue with the 4-ounce serving size - calling it "puny" - and the provision that grocers aren't required to put nutrition facts for whole cuts of meat on the label.
However, a USC dietician quoted in the LA Times story believes that, while the new labeling requirement may not be perfect, it is a step in the right direction.