Reading the Meat Label

For the convenience of today’s busy shoppers, most supermarkets in the U.S. use a consistent labeling method for all meats. This system, known as the Uniform Retail Meat Identity Standards (URMIS), can help the consumer compare the value of cuts and decide how to prepare it by answering three important questions:

  1. What Kind of Meat?
    Listed first on every label, this indicates whether the cut is pork, beef, lamb or veal.
  2. What Part of the Pig is this Cut From?
    This is known as the “primal” or “wholesale” cut and specifies which part of the animal the meat comes from. This information is a good indicator of the relative tenderness of the cut and can help the shopper decide which method of cookery to use when preparing the cut. This part of the label may read shoulder, loin, leg, etc.
  3. What is the Retail Cut?
    This part of the label gives the shopper the specific name of the smaller cut taken from the primal cut. This part of the label may read blade roast, rib chop, sirloin roast, etc.

Additional Labeling Terms
The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has created several terms with defined meanings that are used on labels to provide more information about the food we eat. Below are several of these terms as they pertain to meat.

NATURAL
A product containing no artificial ingredients or added color and is only minimally processed without fundamentally altering the raw product. The label must explain the use of the term natural. For example: “no added colorings or artificial ingredients; minimally processed.”

NO HORMONES
Hormones are not allowed in raising hogs or poultry. For this reason, the claim "no hormones added" cannot be used on the labels of pork or poultry unless it is followed by the statement "Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones."

ORGANIC
Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are raised following the USDA’s guidelines for organic products.

OVEN PREPARED
Product is fully cooked and ready to eat.

OVEN READY
Product is ready to cook.