On March 1, a new rule of USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service took effect requiring nutrition labeling on major cuts of raw meat and poultry products.
"The labels will make it easier to make decisions about what types of meat and poultry to purchase," said Tammy Roberts, nutrition and health education specialist with University of Missouri Extension.
The new nutrition facts label lists total calories, calories from fat, total grams of fat and grams of saturated fat. The labels also provide information about protein, sodium, cholesterol and some vitamin and mineral information.
Previously, the label on a package of ground beef would list the percentage of fat present in the beef, but that wouldn't provide information on the amount of fat or total calories per serving.
"For example, you know that 90 percent lean ground beef has less fat than 80 percent lean, but there is no way of knowing exactly what that means from a nutritional standpoint," Roberts said.
The new labels show many calories are in a four-ounce serving of the product. For example, one serving of 90 percent lean ground beef contains 200 calories, 11 grams of total fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat and 22 grams of protein.
By contrast, the 80 percent lean hamburger provides 280 calories, 22 grams of total fat, 9 grams of saturated fat and 19 grams of protein.
"When you have this type of information, it makes it easier to understand why there is a price difference, and it makes it much easier to make a decision based on nutritional value," Roberts said.
The average American should consume around 2,000 calories per day. Roughly 55 to 60 percent of the calories should come from carbohydrates, 30 percent from fat and 10 to 15 percent from protein, she said. This comes out to 67 grams of total fat, and no more than 16 of those grams of fat should be saturated. Protein should be around 50 to 75 grams per day.
"The new labels on meat arm the consumer with one more tool to make the best decisions for their health," Roberts said. "I think there are many people, especially those with certain health conditions, who will greatly benefit."
For more food and nutrition information from MU Extension, including features, answers to frequently asked questions and learning opportunities, go to www.missourifamilies.org/nutrition/.