USDA Proposes Meat Labels That Some Say Provide Too Much Information

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In a move that some find unappetizing, the U.S. Department of Agriculture plans to change the way meats that are sold at many retailers, including grocery stores, are labeled.

Under the new plan, meat labels would have to include information like where the animal was born, raised and slaughtered.

Countries that export a large amount of beef to the U.S., such as Mexico and Canada, claim that the proposed rules reek of protectionism, while the USDA says the new labels will promote transparency.

Critics of the measure say that consumers don’t want to know the sorts of details that the new labels will contain. “Do consumers really want the word ‘Slaughtered’ on their meat?” asked foreign trade expert Bill Watson. “No. The consumer information argument is pure baloney, meant to hide what would otherwise be ridiculously obvious protectionism.”

According to the Congressional Research Service, if the new measures are approved, the labels on 30 percent of the beef and 11 percent of the pork products sold in the U.S. would need to be changed. Restaurants and other food service providers, such as Burger King, are exempt.

The Food Marketing Institute reports that the new rules will cost millions of dollars to implement and result in consumers paying higher food prices, reports The Daily News.

Some people are in favor of the new labels. Under the updated system, what was once labeled as “pork butt” will now be called bone-in pork shoulder, a more accurate term.

"The problem is consumers didn't really understand the names that were being used and still don't," said the director of retail marketing for the Pork Board, Patrick Fleming. "The names confused consumers to the point where they'd go, 'You know, the information doesn't help me know how to use it, so I'm going to stop using it.' That was a wake-up call for both the beef industry and pork industry."

Sources: The Daily News, Minnesota Public Radio