Mt. Vernon Register-News

Features

February 6, 2014

What to read into nutrition labels on raw meat

Q: When you read a nutrition facts label for raw meat, is the fat content listed for raw or cooked weight? If it's the cooked weight, is the manufacturer assuming the meat is rare or well done?

A: Good questions! Let's unravel this starting with a few bites of background on meat and poultry nutrition labels. First, definitions. Meats, sometimes called red meats, includes beef, lamb, pork and veal and the less commonly eaten bison, emu, venison, etc. Poultry includes chicken, turkey and the less commonly eaten duck, hen, goose, etc.

 In 1994, when the federal Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990 went into effect, our packaged foods got a facelift with the now familiar nutrition facts label. But it wasn't until 2012 that providing a nutrition facts labels was mandatory for manufacturers of single-ingredient raw meat and poultry products.

The Food and Drug Administration does the heavy lifting on food and nutrition labeling, but jurisdiction for meat and poultry products is under the Department of Agriculture's charge. The FDA takes the reins back for foods that contain less than 2 percent cooked meat. Think pork and beans, spaghetti sauce with meat or gravy mixes.

So it was the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service that in 2012 took nutrition labeling of meat and poultry products from voluntary to mandatory. The intent of this new rule, according to the FSIS, was to give shoppers a clearer sense of the options available and to help them make more-informed decisions.

 The 2012 rule mandated that packages of ground or chopped meat and poultry, such as hamburger or ground turkey, and the 40 most popular whole, raw cuts of meat and poultry, such as chicken breast or steak, feature the nutrition facts panel on the food's label or nearby on display in the market, says Joy Dubost, a registered dietitian in Washington and spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

 The label must provide calories, grams of total fat and saturated fat based on the serving size. Ground or chopped meat or poultry that contains a lean percentage statement must now also list the percentage of fat in the product to allow for easier product comparisons. Manufacturers can voluntarily offer more information.

On packaged raw meat and poultry products, the nutrition facts are listed based on the product's raw weight. The serving size for nearly all raw meat and poultry products is four ounces. However, if the raw product was formed into patties, then the serving size would be the raw weight of each patty - for example, three ounces.

Here's a rule of thumb to translate from raw to cooked portions of meats and poultry. Dubost suggests that for meats, it's reasonable to estimate you'll lose about a quarter of the weight in cooking. So four ounces of raw meat with no bones will serve up roughly three ounces cooked. Dubost's estimate is corroborated by an evaluation of cooking yields for meats and poultry by the USDA's Nutrient Data Laboratory in late 2012.

To estimate the weight of cooked meat or poultry with bone in it, say a T-bone steak or chicken legs, figure you'll lose another ounce. So, four ounces raw with bones will result in two ounces cooked.

Do figure on variation based on several factors: cut of meat, amount of fat, whether it contains bones or skin, preparation method and how well you cook it. For example, a four-ounce raw portion of lean meat grilled to rare will lose less weight than if that steak had more fat on it and was cooked well done.

So what about that cut of red meat or burger you order in a restaurant? Menus typically refer to a raw weight, not the weight of the food served to you. This is based on an industry standard, not a regulation.

A hamburger described as a quarter of a pound (four ounces) will be about three ounces by the time you bite into it, and that eight-ounce filet will be about six ounces cooked. Menu labeling (at least at restaurant chains with more than 20 locations serving the same menu) will eventually be affected by regulations being developed under the Affordable Care Act. "I suspect once the restaurant menu labeling regulations go into effect, the nutrition information for meats and poultry items will be reported for cooked weights," Dubost said.

 

1
Text Only
Features
  • Biggest student loan profits come from grad students

    This week, the Congressional Budget Office projected that the federal government would earn roughly $127 billion from student lending during the next 10 years.

    April 18, 2014

  • Consumer spending on health care jumps as Affordable Care Act takes hold

    Nancy Beigel has known since September that she would need hernia surgery. She couldn't afford it on her $11,000 yearly income until she became eligible for Medicaid in January through President Barack Obama's signature health care law.

    April 17, 2014

  • To sleep well, you may need to adjust what you eat and when

    Sleep.  Oh, to sleep.  A good night's sleep is often a struggle for more than half of American adults.  And for occasional insomnia, there are good reasons to avoid using medications, whether over-the-counter or prescription.

    April 16, 2014

  • Allergies are the real midlife crisis

    One of the biggest mysteries is why the disease comes and goes, and then comes and goes again. People tend to experience intense allergies between the ages of 5 and 16, then get a couple of decades off before the symptoms return in the 30s, only to diminish around retirement age.

    April 15, 2014

  • Screen shot 2014-04-11 at 4.49.09 PM.png Train, entertain your pets with these 3 smartphone apps

    While they may not have thumbs to use the phone, pets can benefit from smartphone apps designed specifically for them.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Millions of Android phones, tablets vulnerable to Heartbleed bug

    Millions of smartphones and tablets running Google's Android operating system have the Heartbleed software bug, in a sign of how broadly the flaw extends beyond the Web and into consumer devices.

    April 11, 2014

  • DayCareCosts.jpg Day care's cost can exceed college tuition in some states

    Most parents will deal with an even larger kid-related expense long before college, and it's a cost that very few of them are as prepared for: day care.

    April 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • 10 tips for surviving a severe allergy season

    My colleague Brady Dennis reported recently that the arrival of warmer weather will soon unleash a pollen tsunami in parts of the country where the winter has been especially long and cold. Here are some survival tips from Clifford W. Bassett, an allergy specialist and assistant clinical professor of medicine at the New York University School of Medicine.

    April 9, 2014

  • To get quality care, it helps to be the right kind of patient

    I am a family physician. Sometimes I must step out of the comfort of my clinical role and into that of patient or family caregiver. Generally, these trips to the other side of the exam table inspire a fair amount of anxiety.

    April 8, 2014

  • A man with amnesia taught us how memories become personal

    Although not as celebrated as the late American amnesiac H.M., for my money K.C. taught us more important and poignant things about how memory works. He showed how we make memories personal and personally meaningful. He also had a heck of a life story.

    April 7, 2014

Twitter Updates
Facebook
Stocks