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Meat: USDA dims glow of America's favorite at the table

Did you know a 4-ounce serving of 73-percent lean ground beef contains 350 calories, 270 of that from fat? The meager portion also accounts for 60 percent of the suggested daily intake of saturated fat in a 2,000-calorie diet. Such information is enough to make me drop the hamburger, forgo the extra meatball and ditch the meatloaf.  When the U.S. Department of Agriculture rolls out nutrition labels on popular cuts of meat in 2012, I suspect that's exactly what many consumers will also do.  

The new labels will list calories, calories from fat, total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, protein and vitamins for 40 of the most commonly purchased cuts of beef, poultry, pork and lamb. My hat goes off to the USDA for finally stepping in to help address one aspect of consumer confusion at the meat counter. "What's healthier, ground turkey or ground chicken?" "Is there really that big of a difference between 90- percent and 80-percent lean ground beef?" The labels will help consumers make more educated decisions and, my hope, dim the spotlight on Americans' favorite star at the dinner table— meat.

We eat nearly 8 ounces of meat a day—that’s double what the rest of the world consumes. And though the United States accounts for only 5 percent of the world’s population, we process 15 percent of the total meat supply, according to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization, which also estimates that U.S. livestock production generates nearly a fifth of the world’s greenhouse gases.

Offering up nutritional information to increasingly health conscious consumers is certainly a step in the right direction. My next hope? Government regulated animal cruelty and sustainability labels.

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