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Nutrition Labels Are Coming To Meat

Well, it only took 10 years, but finally the feds have put out a new set of regulations that will require most meat sold in grocery stores to carry nutrition labels.

Now, don't go badgering the butcher just yet. The new rules won't take effect until the start of 2012. That will give him and the rest of the food industry time to get their label makers ready.

The labels will be sort of like the ones already on most packaged foods. They'll show how many calories and how much fat, cholesterol, and other nutrients are contained in a standard serving of that kind of meat or poultry, such as a  tenderloin steak or chicken breast.

Why do we need meat labels? It's pretty common to see ground meat that's already labeled as 90 percent lean, right. Well, the officials say current labels that just say don't give consumers enough information about how much fat they'd eat by buying a particular variety of meat. (Here's an overview.)

Food and nutrition guru Marion Nestle told USA Today the labels "be very helpful to people who are bewildered by what's in meat." But, she predicted,  "people will be quite shocked at the calories and fat."

If you can't wait for the labels but are patient with the Internet, you can round up some of the nutrition information yourself. Here's a ground beef calculator the Agriculture Department's research shop devised. Or for a broader range of meats and other foods, you can search in this big but not very friendly database, also from the USDA.

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