Beginning in January, 2012, nutrition labels will be required for meats, as they currently are for most other foods, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service.

The FSIS announced today that it will be making important nutritional information readily available to consumers on 40 of the most popular cuts of meat and poultry products. Under a new rule, packages of ground or chopped meat and poultry will feature nutrition facts panels on their labels. Additionally, whole, raw cuts of meat and poultry will also have nutrition facts panels either on their package labels or available for consumers at the point-of-purchase, the USDA said.

More and more, busy American families want nutrition information that they can quickly and easily understand, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. We need to do all we can to provide nutrition labels that will help consumers make informed decisions. The USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services work hard to provide the Dietary Guidelines for Americans every five years, and now consumers will have another tool to help them follow these guidelines.

The nutrition facts panels will include the number of calories and the grams of total fat and saturated fat a product contains. Additionally, any product that lists a lean percentage statement, such as 76% lean, on its label also will list its fat percentage, making it easier for consumers to understand the amounts of lean protein and fat in their purchase.

 The panels should provide consumers with sufficient information at the store to assess the nutrient content of the major cuts, enabling them to select meat and poultry products that fit into a healthy diet that meets their family's or their individual needs, Vilsack said.

This rule takes effect on Jan. 1, 2012.