A Pork Chop By Any Other Name Still Tastes as Tasty

When you go to the store to buy meat, do you find yourself scratching your head? So many different cuts. The strip steak, New York strip, club steak, shell steak, and top loin steak all come from the same section of beef, so how do you know which one will suit your needs best? The American meat industry is changing the meat labeling system that has been in place for over 30 years, hoping to ease customer confusion regarding meat packaging labels and cuts of meat, like this one.

In the late 60′s when we started to go from a butcher shop to a bar-coded package at the supermarket- using brand new technology, we started using those bar-codes that we take for granted on everything we buy that make it so simple to shop. In 1984, URMIS was (Uniform Retail Meat Identification Standards) developed, and that is what we have been using in various forms since. Unfortunately, URMIS was designed more for individuals with extensive knowledge about meat cuts, like butchers and retailers, than shoppers.

After about 2 years of research, the Beef and Pork Checkoff Programs have developed a plan to simplify the labels, which will be in effect before Summer’s end. The cool thing about the new labels, aside from being standardized and simplified, is that they will include details about the cut and cooking guidelines.

There will be over 350 cuts to include, and the new labels also will use terms to describe multiple species – a bone-in loin cut will be called a T-bone whether it’s pork or beef. Before the update, a properly labelled sirloin steak would be called a “beef loin top sirloin steak, boneless.” Now it will be called … a sirloin steak. Cool huh?

If you or someone in your family is a grilling pro, it’s worth checking out the retail sections of the Beef and Pork websites. They include ideas for cooking, details about cuts, and suggested cuts for those with health and dietary concerns.

The new system doesn’t come without imperfections. There’s an adjustment for some meat-eaters. I will be surprised the first time I see a “pork t-bone”. And what about the cookbooks that are already published or in the process of being published? They will undoubtedly list outdated cuts of meat for readers. With all change there is challenge, but hopefully having a clear labeling system for consumers outweighs those challenges. It’s one more step in making the dialogue between farms and grocery carts more clear.


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