Changes are coming for consumers who purchase meats. Starting next year, the household shopper will be better able to determine nutrition information when purchasing common products like chicken breasts and ground beef.

Use the following information for a head start on the new regulations.

1. The new guidelines give information for consumers to more easily determine the fat content in a package of meat:

"The nutrition facts panels will include the number of calories and the grams of total fat and saturated fat a product contains. The panels should provide consumers with sufficient information at the store to assess the nutrient content of the major cuts, enabling them to select meat and poultry products that fit into a healthy diet that meets their family's or their individual needs."

2. The new labeling requirements are to help inform consumers about the health content of the meat they purchase.

Rules that have been required on almost all processed food products will now be required on packages of meat. Meat buyers should now have simple access to some the same information they would expect to read on a nutritional label of breakfast cereal or box of crackers.

3. Not every package of meat is affected.

Only major cuts of meat will have to meet the new requirements. This includes some chicken breasts, beef whole cuts, hamburger meat, and ground turkey.

4. Some retailers will be required to have a "country of origin" label (COOL) on meats so consumers know where it came from.

5. The new regulations go into effect at the beginning of next year, on January 1, 2012.

Tips for Choosing and Eating Healthy Meat:

  • Pay attention to the amount of saturated fat contained in a serving of meat.
  • Look beyond chicken for more choices. Lean cuts of beef and pork often get overlooked.
  • Choose 100% of the kind of meat you are purchasing. For example, 100% beef, or 100% chicken — with no solutions added.
  • If it is a staple ingredient for your family, consider organic meats. Educate yourself about choosing organic foods so you can make an informed choice. Be sure to look for the round UDSA Organic logo.
  • Consider purchasing meat products from your local butcher. Cuts are generally fresher and may have gone through less processing than meats purchased in big stores.
  • Avoid frequently using highly-processed packaged meats (bologna, salami, hot dogs).
  • When buying beef, the Mayo Clinic recommends choosing meat labeled "Select" or "Choice" over meat labeled "Prime." Prime meats generally contain more fat.
  • Cut fat off of steak before eating.

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