New labeling system may minimize meat mystery
April 4th, 2013
01:15 PM ET
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Find yourself befuddled at the butcher counter by terms like "top loin chop" and "pork rump"? A new consumer-friendly universal meat labeling system is about to help cut through the confusion.

Two of the country's largest meat councils, the National Pork Board and the Beef Checkoff Program, have unanimously agreed to implement a more uniform and descriptive labeling system for commercially-sold cuts. The revised Uniform Retail Meat Identification Standards or URMIS was developed in conjunction with the with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Marketing Service and Food Safety Inspection Service, and introduces a new common name standard designed to help consumers make more informed shopping decisions.

The system, which will apply to 350 cuts of beef and pork (with lamb and veal to join later) introduces a label that includes:

  • A consumer-friendly name: sirloin tip roast, loin roast or kabobs
  • The kind of meat, any identifier to differentiate cuts with the same common name, bone presence and cutting standard (like thickness or muscle): "beef, bone-in," "pork, boneless," "pork, shoulder, boneless"
  • A preparation method or other helpful information: "Grill for best results"

URMIS was originally implemented in 1973 in an attempt to regulate a system in which labeling consisted of a piece of tape and a marker. By the industry's own admission, the overly-anatomical and non-standardized naming created something of a roadblock for shoppers who were sometimes unsure what they were being offered, how to cook it, or even what animal it came from. Customers would default to buying the few cuts with which they were familiar, leaving more mysterious meats to languish in meat department freezers.

The new standards were developed over an 18-month period of consumer and industry research and approved on a conference call by members of the Industry-Wide Cooperative Meat Identification Standards Committee. Processed meats, grinds and offal do not fall under URMIS labeling guidelines.

The current system is voluntary, but is used by 85% of the industry. Retailers that do not employ it must use alternative, federally-approved labels or submit their own for inspection. Consumers should start seeing the new labels by sometime this summer - just in time for grilling season.

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Filed under: Labels • Marketing • Meat

soundoff (58 Responses)
  1. Jim Dunbar

    This blog was... how do you say it? Relevant!! Finally I've found something which helped me. Cheers!

    June 21, 2014 at 11:54 pm |
  2. Nicolas Nidiffer

    An fascinating dialogue is value comment. I feel that it's best to write extra on this matter, it won't be a taboo topic however usually individuals are not sufficient to talk on such topics. To the next. Cheers

    August 8, 2013 at 3:43 am |
  3. Mark

    What we really need to be concerned about is how this meats being processed. Is it cut fresh within the store? or is it cut 21 days ago? Gassed to simulate the appearance of freshness, shipped to grocery stores in the same packaging that were used to seeing. One way to tell, if the safe food handling label is on the bottom of the package, ITS BEEN GASSED!!!!. Keeps the product looking fresh for weeks, doesn't stop the bacterial growth..

    April 9, 2013 at 8:22 am |
  4. Bob1god

    Meat sux , get your protein elsewhere!

    April 5, 2013 at 7:43 am |
  5. Ryan Goodman

    Good news that these groups are revisiting the labeling standards for meats. The 'unknown' factor and improper or over-cooking are what lead to most poor eating experiences when it comes to meat.

    We (farmers in general) get questions about where a certain cut of meat comes from. Best person to help us learn more about meats and each cut is our butcher. My friend Jenny just had a blog post explaining where cuts come from on the animal. It may help a few commenters below –

    April 5, 2013 at 6:42 am |
  6. Shirely U. Jest

    I get a frown just by at a packaged meat product knowing that thang has been stewing under the plastic in water and that I am paying a premium for nothing but water weight. a cut of beef shouldn't look like it just came out of the swimming pool. And then there's that chicken, its is so wet the packer had to put a depends on the bottom of its water proof package tray.

    If I get hormones or leftover GMO goo in my grub, its all a bonus because I didn't pay for that.

    "this product contains up to 20% solution for tenderness" And yet no one complains. What's up with that?

    And now some chump fool is going to tell me my pork chop is now a pork porterhouse? Well that's what they had on the label a few weeks ago.

    April 5, 2013 at 3:54 am |
  7. ready

    Is this where people are whining about GM foods again yet they are the same people who claim to believe in science in global warming? Either believe in all science or none of it. If you think GM foods are harmful when there is no scientific evidence to that claim you may as well not believe in the internal combustion engine or may as well become a creationist.

    April 5, 2013 at 1:10 am |
    • MadScotsman

      You sound like a shill for Monsanto, ready.

      There are a number of problems. One is the scientific evidence is pretty much missing. Most of the science is done by the corporations and they reserve the right to suppress anything that does not conform to their expectations. Can GMO organisms be tested independently? No, because the scientist would get sued by the GMO corporations.

      Another problem is that GMO organisms can escape into the wild, but it's worse than that – not only can a neighbouring organic farm be contaminated by GMO organisms, they have no redress and have, in fact, been sued by GMO corporations.

      Ask yourself this – why do the GMO Corporations go running to the government for protection from labeling laws? What are the GMO Corporations hiding? If GMO Organisms are as good for us as the Corporations say, why do they hide the fact that they are selling GMO Organisms? All we want is that GMO Organisms be labeled, but the Corporations are scared that the public might reject their produce.

      It is my right as a consumer to spend my money the way I want to. The American way is to let the market decide, but the GMO Corporations fight tooth and nail to ensure I do not have that information. That's Un-American.

      One reality is that GMO Organisms are a way for a GMO Corporation to patent what they sell, to dominate a market segment, and to ensure future revenue by only selling sterile seeds. I think that's a bad corporate practice and I want to use my purchasing power to direct their energies to more consumer friendly practices – the GMO Corporations know that so they go crying to the government asking for permission to suppress information – both from the pov of independent research and from the pov of consumer labeling.

      And that's my two cents.

      Cheers, Neil.

      April 6, 2013 at 3:16 pm |
  8. ready

    Is this the sh!t where people are whining about GM foods again yet they are the same people who claim to believe in science in global warming? Either believe in all science or none of it. If you think GM foods are harmful when there is no scientific evidence to that claim you may as well not believe in the internal combustion engine or may as well become a creationist.

    April 5, 2013 at 1:09 am |
  9. Jimh77

    I know what goes on my grill and in our belly's. It may be a little more$, I know where it came from and where it was raised and what it was fed. Till I can get the same from some store. No freakin way. LOcal farms is where to go folks.

    April 4, 2013 at 9:19 pm |
    • Scott Gehman

      I agree!!! Go to

      April 6, 2013 at 5:53 am |
  10. daniel

    How about testing the brain tissue of each carcass to certify them as mad cow free. Also, stop importing Mexican and Canadian beef and selling it as domestic?

    April 4, 2013 at 9:18 pm |
  11. cpc65

    "Contains 20% Horse Flesh"

    April 4, 2013 at 8:52 pm |
  12. Captain Slappaho

    I can't remember the last time I looked at a food label (meat) and got frustrated because I didn't comprehend. Stay in school people.

    April 4, 2013 at 8:49 pm |
    • geneinmexico

      I agree. Just dumbing down the people just for marketing reasons. Watch prices rise with the new lables.

      April 5, 2013 at 11:01 am |
  13. Carol

    I would like to see a labeling system that includes a picture of the animal (beef, pig, lamb) with the area of the animal that the packaged meat comes from, highlighted. Then, a little picture of a crock pot or a BBQ grill or an oven roaster or a frying pan, to indicate how various cuts are best cooked. No extra words necessary.

    April 4, 2013 at 8:46 pm |
    • SixDegrees

      Sure. Why expect people to know how to read?

      April 5, 2013 at 3:14 am |
    • geneinmexico

      pictures of animals? pictures of cooking equipment? What, you sending your 5 year old out shopping for food?

      April 5, 2013 at 11:03 am |
  14. Anomic Office Drone

    I'm sick of trade groups setting the rules for themselves. Give the USDA and FDA some teeth, so that we can get labeling that's in the best interest of the consumer.

    April 4, 2013 at 7:42 pm |
  15. COW

    Eat mor chiken !

    April 4, 2013 at 7:36 pm |
  16. PR

    usless, all that matters is if theres filler like pink slime (walmart), but the FDA is controlled by lobbyists so that will never happen

    April 4, 2013 at 6:51 pm |
    • TheDeeJayCee

      Could you kindly point to one scientific study showing LFTB is in any way harmful to humans? Just because the media tried to shock you (and in your case succeeded) doesn't mean anything at all. You wouldn't eat most food if you knew every step in it's processing, including vegetables.

      April 4, 2013 at 7:50 pm |
  17. Diraphe

    They should start labeling food that has been irradiated as well; I certainly don't want to get a food borne pathogen because some yuppy flunked physics and is afraid of the "ionizing radiation" boogeyman

    April 4, 2013 at 6:04 pm |
    • bs1

      Indeed, they had to drop the nuclear in Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) do to that public ignorance and paranoia.

      April 4, 2013 at 8:23 pm |
  18. fran5309

    Reblogged this on Benewah Health and Wellness and commented:
    Here is an interesting article provided by use this information to pick out healthy meats for you and your family!

    April 4, 2013 at 6:01 pm |
  19. TheDeeJayCee

    I really like how the sticker in the picture says it is "Certified Organic". Get right out of town! This is a carbon based food source?! I don't believe it! Do you know what else is organic? Graphite, and you don't see anyone eating that now do you. Very stupid consumers.

    April 4, 2013 at 6:00 pm |
    • Lisa

      Please explain. How is a "carbon based food source" not able to be organic? Which in this context means no growth hormones or antibiotics...?

      April 4, 2013 at 6:08 pm |
      • Barbara

        That's not quite the point. Webster's definition of "organic" is more the point. According to the actual definition of the word "organic", the label is meaningless except for a way to garner larger profits.

        To wit:
        Definition of ORGANIC
        a : of, relating to, or arising in a bodily organ
        b : affecting the structure of the organism
        a (1) : of, relating to, or derived from living organisms
        (2) : of, relating to, yielding, or involving the use of food produced with the use of feed or fertilizer of plant or animal origin without employment of chemically formulated fertilizers, growth stimulants, antibiotics, or pesticides
        b (1) : of, relating to, or containing carbon compounds (2) : relating to, being, or dealt with by a branch of chemistry concerned with the carbon compounds of living beings and most other carbon compounds

        April 4, 2013 at 6:13 pm |
      • TheDeeJayCee

        Wow! I was being facetious but nice catch! The very definition of organic is 'of, relating to or containing carbon' which covers every food product in any grocery store in the world. It also covers things like graphite and diamonds and fossil fuels. I could therefore put the label 'certified organic' on a lump of coal and would be 100% accurate.

        April 4, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
        • Pablo

          Obviously words can carry more than one meaning and the way in which words are used changes over time. There is a roughly agreed upon notion of what organic food is. Cynicism remains the king of the interwebs!

          April 4, 2013 at 6:38 pm |
        • frmrma

          Pesticides and hormones are organic compounds.

          April 4, 2013 at 7:16 pm |
        • frmrma

          "There is a roughly agreed upon notion of what organic food is." – There sure is.

          April 4, 2013 at 7:18 pm |
        • twinkles

          except for salt – NaCl – not organic. ;)

          my personal mantra is -just because something is organic or natural does not mean it is good for you or safe.

          April 6, 2013 at 8:20 am |
    • psd

      FYI, graphite is not considered organic.

      April 4, 2013 at 6:11 pm |
      • TheDeeJayCee

        Does graphite contain any carbon? Why yes, yes it does. It is 100% carbon so is therefore organic.

        April 4, 2013 at 6:22 pm |
        • psd

          except that there are many carbon compounds, including graphite and diamonds, which are excluded from being considered organic compounds

          April 5, 2013 at 6:49 pm |
      • science

        fyi you didnt understand the joke

        April 4, 2013 at 6:54 pm |
    • GUEST

      For those who don't get it, organic is (well used to be) a scientific term that meant made out of carbon. Organic chemistry wasn't about studying things that weren't genetically modified but rather things that are made out of carbon. From wikipedia: Organic chemistry is the study of "matter in its various forms that contain carbon atoms."

      April 4, 2013 at 6:22 pm |
    • John

      You know that words can have more than one meaning, right?

      April 4, 2013 at 6:24 pm |
      • james

        Like "bone-in"??? I laugh every time I hear a Safeway commercial on the radio...

        April 4, 2013 at 6:37 pm |
      • Pablo

        They are actually reading... baby steps... don't discourage them

        April 4, 2013 at 6:39 pm |
    • Oscar Pitchfork


      a (1): of, relating to, or derived from living organisms (2): of, relating to, yielding, or involving the use of food produced with the use of feed or fertilizer of plant or animal origin without employment of chemically formulated fertilizers, growth stimulants, antibiotics, or pesticides

      b (1): of, relating to, or containing carbon compounds (2): relating to, being, or dealt with by a branch of chemistry concerned with the carbon compounds of living beings and most other carbon compounds

      It's the FIRST definition, you retarded fool!

      April 5, 2013 at 7:38 am |
  20. Seyedibar

    I could really care less about the grade of meat i eat or what beast it comes from. They should be less concerned with the grade value and markup potential, and more concerned with explaining how to properly cook muscle flesh. The latest research shows that most Americans and restaurants cook their meats too fast which causes the cells to transform into carcinogens and toxins. if we're truly moving toward an era of socialized medicine, it will save taxpayers a bundle in bowel diseases and cancers to start teaching people now.

    April 4, 2013 at 5:59 pm |
    • TheDeeJayCee

      If you don't care about the grade of your meat, just buy cutter or canner quality meat and save your money? Why should anyone have to tell you how to cook something? That is something you can look up. You can't look up what the grade or your meat is, which is why they label it.

      April 4, 2013 at 6:35 pm |
  21. rufus

    The fattest, heaviest cuts will now be known as Moochelle Butt.

    April 4, 2013 at 5:43 pm |
  22. rjrock

    How about labels that include chemical, antibiotic, or hormonal agents in the meat? I'd rather have that than an easier system for understanding whether I should grill or roast. The department of agriculture is completely tone deaf.

    April 4, 2013 at 4:52 pm |
    • Joe

      Exactly... which is exactly why I've stopped buying meat. It is literally mystery meat these days.

      April 4, 2013 at 5:44 pm |
    • Goodhank

      In the U.S. all beef is fed a cocktail of hormones, antibiotics and other stuff. Only beef labeld "organic" is clean, but it has its own share of problems. If you want meat, the safest thing to do is raise it yourself or hunt it.

      April 4, 2013 at 5:57 pm |
      • Tristan

        I agree. Even organic meat can't truly be considered clean. The label is based on percentages. If you use a certain percent less of hormones, medications, etc.. you can slap that sticker on your meat. Kind of like how Certified Angus Beef only means the cattle are at least 50% black.

        April 4, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
    • Seyedibar

      The US has extremely strict laws governing hormones and antibiotics in factory farms. Possibly the strictest in the world after Japan.

      April 4, 2013 at 6:06 pm |
      • SixDegrees

        Having strict laws about such things is probably good. But in most of Europe, such laws aren't necessary to begin with, because the use of hormones and antibiotics on livestock for anything other than treatment of actual disease, and only for a limited period of time, is completely banned. There is no need for it, and it raises all sorts of unpleasant issues, particularly antibiotic resistance.

        April 4, 2013 at 6:29 pm |
  23. Ed G.

    @Tracy T, I don't see where you're coming from. I haven't seen where higher prices will result from suggesting a method of cooking. The supermarkets I frequent already put a sticker on the packages that say how to do this anyway. Pork Butt and Boston Butt are colloquial names used in different parts of the country, and it would be nice to have one term to understand. Picnic Roast is another term used for the same cut of meat. A pork chop from the front of the pig is not the same cut as a pork chop from the back of the pig. These names should be more descriptive so we'll know what part of the hog they come from. We’ll have expectations regarding tenderness and quality that's appropriate for that cut.

    I don't think higher prices will result from changing a sticker as much as they have from the cost of feed. If this leads to a better understanding of the product, I'm all for it. I would think everybody, producer/retailer/customer, would be glad to know exactly the cut of meat and it's anatomical position and that it will probably lead to less waste because many folks would simply leave that misunderstood cut of meat on the shelf.

    April 4, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
    • Tristan

      A Boston Shoulder (or Boston Butt/Pork Butt) is a cut on the top of the shoulder. A Picnic Shoulder is a cut below the Boston Shoulder. Pork chops come from the loin area and are not cut from the shoulders or the ham.

      April 4, 2013 at 6:42 pm |
  24. Will

    Honestly how much is this going to add to a pound of beef? A few cents at most, and other countries like Ireland recently found out they had horse meat mixed in maybe this is not a bad idea.

    April 4, 2013 at 4:24 pm |
  25. Tracy T

    A shameless attempt by the beef and pork industries to try and using marketing to charge more for their products. They think by telling a customer how to prepare a piece of meat they can charge more for it. Read in another article they are changing From using Pork Butt to Boston Butt which is "way more descriptive"–sarcasm. They are also doing away with the term pork chops and using such terms as pork ribeyes and pork porterhouses. How utterly ridiculous.

    April 4, 2013 at 3:46 pm |
    • Tristan

      Pork butt sounds like the cut would be from the ham area. Boston butt is an actual term used interchangeably with Boston Shoulder. Still not very clear, but it's a bit better.

      April 4, 2013 at 6:23 pm |
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