Monday, January 3, 2011

USDA to Require Nutrition Labels on Meat - so what?

The USDA didn't formerly require nutrition labels on beef - as to how much fat, etc. But they just dropped a bombshell that as of one year from tomorrow, they will be.

And while this is a good thing for consumers (particularly where they rely on commodity-produced beef products), it's a hassle for the small producer and the small processor.

But it looks like the small people are exempt from this - as long as they stick to custom-exempt processing (meaning you buy the whole beef, a half, or a quarter.) Of course, I had to look this up, and over at a niche site, Justia (no, I had never heard of them, either), they have the whole deal laid out as to exactly what the nutrition labeling requirements have to be, when they originally went into effect, etc. http://law.justia.com/us/cfr/title09/9-2.0.2.1.18.2.21.28.html

Now while this is a good thing for farmers who want to stay small, it just poses another hurdle to those who want to expand into the by-cut markets of local restaurants and larger food providers.

The good part about this is that we'll then be able to differentiate the various beef cuts from each other, and by brand. But it's unknown if you'll have to send your own beef out for testing to see what has to be on that label. Grass fed beef, for instance, is going to be a helluva lot less fatty than corn-fed beef.

And it will show up that when you buy the commodity stuff, they are selling you fat by the pound - no matter whether they say it's "natural" or some other marketing label. Grass fed beef is higher in percentage of meat, as it's a lean beef.

Now, you'll also notice that there is no requirements to add "this meat is known by survey to have more taste and flavor..."

But I guess there's a point where government requirements leave off and marketing begins...