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The kindest cut: a 10-step guide to meat & poultry.

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How many calories in that cereal? How much sodium in that soup? For nearly two decades, Nutrition Facts labels have answered those questions ... except in the one section of the supermarket where you might need them the most.

In the fresh meat and poultry case, you're pretty much on your own. Exceptions: Most ground meat and poultry has Nutrition Facts (along with deceptive lean claims). And a few companies put Nutrition Facts on brand-name meats or poultry voluntarily.

Late last year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture proposed a disappointing solution. Supermarkets would have to provide Nutrition Facts on all fresh meat and poultry, but not necessarily on labels, where shoppers need them. Instead, stores could put up a poster or offer a brochure, notebook, leaflet, or whatever. Thanks so much.

In fact, many stores already have those posters. But odds are, you haven't noticed them. In some cases they're above or on the sides of the meat case. And even if your vision were sharp enough to read the fine print, the cuts on the posters don't always match what the store is selling. So good luck with that.

If you'd like to urge the USDA to require Nutrition Facts on meat and poultry packages, mail the coupon on p. 14. In the meantime, here's a guide to the meat case.

The information for this article was compiled by Danielle Hazard and Melissa Pryputniewicz.

1 Check the serving size.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says that a typical serving of steak, roasts, chops, and poultry parts is just 3 ounces. That's about the size of the patty in a McDonald's Quarter Pounder (which starts out as 4 ounces of raw meat).

A 3 oz. serving may be what health authorities recommend, but typical? What planet is the USDA living on?

Even diets designed to lower bad cholesterol, like the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), use a more realistic 4 ounces of cooked meat. But if you want real realistic, look at typical servings at mid-priced restaurants. A chicken breast weighs 6 to 8 ounces cooked and steaks range from 8 to 16 ounces raw (6 to 12 ounces cooked).

So before you check the calories, saturated fat, or anything else, estimate your serving size. If you buy a pound of meat or poultry for every two people, that's 8 ounces of raw meat--or 6 ounces of cooked meat--per serving. If you divide the pound into three servings, it's 4 ounces of cooked meat per serving. That's the serving size we list in our chart on p. 15.

2 Pick an extra lean cut.

Ounce for ounce, chicken breast meat has less fat than drumstick meat, which has less fat than wing meat, which has less fat than thigh meat.

But the difference between low-fat and fatty matters more for red meat. Pick a fattier chicken piece like a skinless thigh and your 4 oz. cooked serving ends up with 3.5 grams of saturated fat. Pick a fatty beef cut like chuck blade roast with a 1/8" fat trim and you're up to 12.5 grams of sat fat.

And more fat means more calories. A 4 oz. cooked serving of prime rib has 410 calories. The same size serving of eye of round roast has only 240.

A "lean" cut of steak or roast can be no more than 10 percent fat, and an "extra lean" cut can be no more than 5 percent fat, according to the USDA. However, very few fresh meat packages carry those claims.

What's more, which cuts are "lean" or "extra lean" depends on how much they're trimmed. And the meat industry assumes that consumers are world-class trimmers.

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3 Trim and skin.

The beef industry likes to boast about its "29 Lean Cuts"--round steak, sirloin, and other cuts "that meet the government labeling guidelines for lean," according to beefitswhatsfordinner.com.

But the meats in the list have had all of their "visible fat trimmed." And about half have been so meticulously trimmed around the edges and elsewhere by scalpel-wielding technicians that even fatty cuts like T-bone, tenderloin roast, and brisket end up "lean."

The rest of the "29 Lean Cuts" have a 0" trim, which means that the technicians only removed every scrap of fat around the edges.

Since most consumers don't trim with a scalpel, a more reasonable trim is 1/8" fat. That's what you'll find for most meats in our chart. In most cases, meats with a 1/8" trim are the rattiest listed by the USDA, which gets its numbers from the meat industry.

In fact, for some popular cuts--like tri-tip, chuck eye steak, flank steak, flat iron steak, and ribeye steak--the USDA's Web site only has numbers for 0" trim. One look at the ribeye on page 13 tells you how silly that is.

When it comes to pork, the USDA's Web site doesn't even say if its numbers apply to 0" fat, 1/8" fat, or any other trim. How convenient. (Our chart uses older USDA numbers for pork with a 1/8" trim.)

Some good news: It doesn't matter if the fat is gone before you cook, as long as it's gone before you eat. So if you don't buy skinless poultry or ask the butcher to trim your meat, skin and trim at home.

4 Select "select."

Prime beef is the fattiest. Select is the leanest. Choice is in the middle.

If you want to save some saturated fat, calories, and money, look for select (when you can find it). Just keep in mind that, since select beef has less fat, you'll want to cook it either hot and fast (a quick saute, for example) or low and slow (like a stew or pot roast, which keeps in the moisture).

5 Watch out for "80% lean" ground beef

Beware of ground beef labels. They list not just the "% fat," but the "% lean" as well. To most people, the word "lean" means low-fat. But ground beef that's "70% lean" is the fattiest ground beef allowed on the market. And even ground beef that's 80% or 85% lean is still fatty.

Who needs a label to say "80% lean/20% fat" (some labels call it 80/20), when it could just say "20% fat".)

The meat industry. According to a survey commissioned by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, publisher of Nutrition Action, consumers are more likely to think that ground beef is low in fat if it's labeled "80% lean/20% fat" than if it's just labeled "20% fat."

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That's why meat producers have fought for 20 years to keep the misleading "percent lean" claims. The industry doesn't mind putting Nutrition Facts on its packages, as long as it can keep fooling people.

6 Look for ground turkey or chicken breast.

If the label simply says "ground turkey" or "ground chicken," you may be getting meat plus skin. (The skin is part of the bird, after all.)

If you want no fatty skin (or thighs or wings or other parts), look for "ground turkey breast" or "ground chicken breast." Or check the Nutrition Facts. If a 4 oz. serving (raw) of your ground turkey or chicken has no more than 2 grams of saturated fat, you don't have to worry about whether it contains skin or rattier meat.

7 Avoid added water and salt.

It may look like fresh chicken, turkey, or pork with nothing added. But read the small print. If a chicken label says some thing like "seasoned with up to 15% chicken broth" or "enhanced with up to 15% solution," you're paying chicken prices for water.

What's more, you may end up with a load of salt. Five ounces of Perdue's Tender & Tasty line, for example, cooks down to 4 ounces and delivers anywhere from 290 to 410 milligrams of sodium. Other lines that "enhance" their fresh poultry include Tyson Trimmed & Ready, Empire Kosher, and Pilgrim's Pride EatWell StayHealthy.

Pork can be worse. Some hams and tenderloins are 30 percent salt-and-water. (See cspinet.org/pumpedup.)

8 Choose poultry or fish over red meat.

Last year, researchers at the National Cancer Institute reported the results of the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study. (1)

Of some 500,000 participants, those who ate the most red meat (about 5 ounces a day) were 30 percent more likely to die--mostly of heart disease or cancer--over the next 10 years than those who ate the least red meat (about 2/3 ounce a day).

Those who ate the most white meat (poultry and fish) had a slightly lower risk of dying over a decade than those who ate the least. (The industry calls pork "the other white meat," but scientists lump pork in with beef, veal, and lamb.)

In other studies, red meat seemed to boost the risk of colon cancer (see June 2009, cover story). Researchers aren't sure why. Two possibilities: red meat's heme iron or the mutagens that form when red meat is overcooked may promote tumors.

9 Minimize mutagens.

Don't overcook your meat or poultry. The browner it is, the more likely that it contains heterocyclic amines (HCAs), which may raise the risk of cancer.

Grilling and barbecuing create the most HCAs, followed by broiling and pan-frying. Baking, roasting, and stir-frying create fewer HCAs, and wet cooking methods (braising, stewing, poaching) generally produce the least.

A few tricks can minimize the HCAs when you grill or barbecue. Marinate the meat or poultry, even for a few minutes. Grill it using indirect heat (push the coals to the sides and cook the meat in the center, or, if you use a gas grill, grill over an unlit element). And flip the food frequently to keep surface temperatures lower.

10 Think of the Earth.

It takes more water to produce beef and pork than any other foods, according to a 2006 report from the United Nations called Livestock's Long Shadow. (2)

"In the United States, livestock are responsible for 55 percent of erosion, 37 percent of pesticides applied, 50 percent of the volume of antibiotics consumed and for 32 percent of the nitrogen load and 33 percent of the phosphorus load into freshwater resources," says the report.

What's more, livestock account for 18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions--more than transportation. That's because cattle emit methane, a greenhouse gas that's 25 times more destructive than carbon dioxide.

Not a vegetarian? Would it kill you to eat like one every once in a while?

(1) Arch. Intern. Med. 169: 562, 2009.

(2) fao.org/docrep/010/a0701e/a0701e00.HTM.
Track Meat

Best Bites ([check][check]) have no more than 2 grams of saturated
fat per serving (4 ounces cooked). We disqualified red meat,
which may raise the risk of heart disease and cancer. Red
meats are carefully trimmed (in most cases to 1/8" fat). Because
recent 1/8" trim numbers were unavailable for pork, we used
older numbers. Within each section, cuts are ranked from least
to most saturated fat, then least to most calories.

Poultry (4 oz. cooked)                                        Calories

[check][check]    Perdue Fit & Easy Ground Chicken
                    Breast (1)                                110
[check][check]    Perdue Fit & Easy Ground Turkey
                    Breast (1)                                150
[check][check]    Turkey breast, no skin                      190 *
[check][check]    Chicken breast, no skin                     190
[check][check]    Chicken drumstick, no skin                  200
                  Perdue Lean Ground Turkey, 7% fat (1)       190
                  Chicken breast, with skin                   220
                  Turkey breast, with skin                    220
                  Turkey leg, no skin                         220 *
                  Chicken wing, no skin                       230
                  Chicken thigh, no skin                      240
                  Turkey leg, with skin                       240
                  Chicken drumstick, with skin                250
                  Turkey wing, with skin                      270
                  Perdue Ground Chicken (1)                   230
                  Chicken thigh, with skin                    280
                  Perdue Ground Turkey, 15% fat (1)           260
                  Chicken wing, with skin                     330

Beef (4 oz. cooked, 1/8" trim unless noted)
                  Chuck eye steak, choice, 0" trim            180
                  Top round (London broil), select            230
                  Flank steak, choice, 0" trim                230
                  Bottom round (Rump roast), select           240
                  Eye of round roast, choice                  240
                  Top round (London broil), choice            250
                  Ground beef, 10% fat                        250
                  Tri-tip roast, choice, 0" trim              250
                  Bottom round steak, select                  270
                  Bottom round (Rump roast), choice           250
                  Round tip roast, choice                     260
                  Bottom round steak, choice                  290
                  Flat iron steak, choice, 0" trim            260
                  Ground beef, 15% fat                        280
                  Top sirloin steak, choice                   290
                  Ribeye (Delmonico) steak, choice, 0"
                    trim                                      300
                  Ground beef, 20% fat                        310
                  Filet mignon (Tenderloin steak), choice     310
                  Ground beef, 25% fat                        320
                  New York strip steak, choice                320
                  Ground beef, 30% fat                        310
                  T-bone steak, choice                        320
                  Chuck arm pot roast, choice                 350
                  Brisket (flat cut or first cut), choice     340
                  Porterhouse steak, choice                   340
                  Tenderloin roast, choice                    380
                  Chuck blade roast, choice                   410
                  Prime rib, choice                           410
                  Rib roast (large end), choice               430

Pork (4 oz. cooked, 1/8" trim unless noted)
                  Tenderloin, 0" trim                         200
                  Sirloin roast, boneless, 0" trim            230
                  Top loin chop, boneless                     260
                  Top loin roast, boneless                    260
                  Loin chop, with bone                        270
                  Pork chop (Loin rib chop), boneless         290
                  Shoulder blade steak                        290
                  Pork chop (Loin rib chop), with bone        300
                  Ground pork                                 340
                  Country style ribs, with bone               370
                  Spareribs, no trim specified                450

Lamb (4 oz. cooked, 1/8" trim)
                  Shank, domestic                             250
                  Loin chop, Australian                       250
                  Leg, domestic                               270
                  Shank, Australian                           260
                  Leg, Australian                             280
                  Shoulder blade chop, domestic               300
                  Loin chop, domestic                         340
                  Shoulder arm chop, domestic                 380
                  Rib roast, Australian                       310
                  Shoulder arm chop, Australian               350
                  Shoulder blade chop, Australian             330
                  Rib roast, domestic                         390

Veal (4 oz. cooked, no trim specified)
                  Cutlet                                      180
                  Shoulder arm steak                          210
                  Shoulder blade steak                        210
                  Loin chop                                   250
                  Rib roast                                   260

For comparison (4 oz. cooked)
[check][check]    Flounder                                    130
[check][check]    Wild Coho Salmon                            160

                                                              Total
Poultry (4 oz. cooked)                                        Fat (g)

[check][check]    Perdue Fit & Easy Ground Chicken
                    Breast (1)                                1
[check][check]    Perdue Fit & Easy Ground Turkey
                    Breast (1)                                2
[check][check]    Turkey breast, no skin                      2 *
[check][check]    Chicken breast, no skin                     4
[check][check]    Chicken drumstick, no skin                  6
                  Perdue Lean Ground Turkey, 7% fat (1)       10
                  Chicken breast, with skin                   9
                  Turkey breast, with skin                    9
                  Turkey leg, no skin                         8 *
                  Chicken wing, no skin                       9
                  Chicken thigh, no skin                      12
                  Turkey leg, with skin                       12
                  Chicken drumstick, with skin                13
                  Turkey wing, with skin                      15
                  Perdue Ground Chicken (1)                   15
                  Chicken thigh, with skin                    18
                  Perdue Ground Turkey, 15% fat (1)           18
                  Chicken wing, with skin                     22

Beef (4 oz. cooked, 1/8" trim unless noted)
                  Chuck eye steak, choice, 0" trim            6
                  Top round (London broil), select            9
                  Flank steak, choice, 0" trim                11
                  Bottom round (Rump roast), select           12
                  Eye of round roast, choice                  11
                  Top round (London broil), choice            12
                  Ground beef, 10% fat                        13
                  Tri-tip roast, choice, 0" trim              14
                  Bottom round steak, select                  13
                  Bottom round (Rump roast), choice           14
                  Round tip roast, choice                     14
                  Bottom round steak, choice                  14
                  Flat iron steak, choice, 0" trim            15
                  Ground beef, 15% fat                        18
                  Top sirloin steak, choice                   18
                  Ribeye (Delmonico) steak, choice, 0"
                    trim                                      19
                  Ground beef, 20% fat                        20
                  Filet mignon (Tenderloin steak), choice     20
                  Ground beef, 25% fat                        21
                  New York strip steak, choice                21
                  Ground beef, 30% fat                        21
                  T-bone steak, choice                        23
                  Chuck arm pot roast, choice                 23
                  Brisket (flat cut or first cut), choice     22
                  Porterhouse steak, choice                   25
                  Tenderloin roast, choice                    29
                  Chuck blade roast, choice                   31
                  Prime rib, choice                           33
                  Rib roast (large end), choice               36

Pork (4 oz. cooked, 1/8" trim unless noted)
                  Tenderloin, 0" trim                         7
                  Sirloin roast, boneless, 0" trim            11
                  Top loin chop, boneless                     13
                  Top loin roast, boneless                    13
                  Loin chop, with bone                        15
                  Pork chop (Loin rib chop), boneless         18
                  Shoulder blade steak                        19
                  Pork chop (Loin rib chop), with bone        18
                  Ground pork                                 24
                  Country style ribs, with bone               29
                  Spareribs, no trim specified                34

Lamb (4 oz. cooked, 1/8" trim)
                  Shank, domestic                             13
                  Loin chop, Australian                       14
                  Leg, domestic                               16
                  Shank, Australian                           16
                  Leg, Australian                             17
                  Shoulder blade chop, domestic               21
                  Loin chop, domestic                         23
                  Shoulder arm chop, domestic                 26
                  Rib roast, Australian                       23
                  Shoulder arm chop, Australian               23
                  Shoulder blade chop, Australian             25
                  Rib roast, domestic                         31

Veal (4 oz. cooked, no trim specified)
                  Cutlet                                      5
                  Shoulder arm steak                          9
                  Shoulder blade steak                        10
                  Loin chop                                   14
                  Rib roast                                   16

For comparison (4 oz. cooked)
[check][check]    Flounder                                    2
[check][check]    Wild Coho Salmon                            5

                                                              Saturated
Poultry (4 oz. cooked)                                        Fat (g)

[check][check]    Perdue Fit & Easy Ground Chicken
                    Breast (1)                                0
[check][check]    Perdue Fit & Easy Ground Turkey
                    Breast (1)                                0
[check][check]    Turkey breast, no skin                      0.5 *
[check][check]    Chicken breast, no skin                     1
[check][check]    Chicken drumstick, no skin                  1.5
                  Perdue Lean Ground Turkey, 7% fat (1)       2.5
                  Chicken breast, with skin                   2.5
                  Turkey breast, with skin                    2.5
                  Turkey leg, no skin                         2.5 *
                  Chicken wing, no skin                       2.5
                  Chicken thigh, no skin                      3.5
                  Turkey leg, with skin                       3.5
                  Chicken drumstick, with skin                3.5
                  Turkey wing, with skin                      4
                  Perdue Ground Chicken (1)                   5
                  Chicken thigh, with skin                    5
                  Perdue Ground Turkey, 15% fat (1)           6
                  Chicken wing, with skin                     6

Beef (4 oz. cooked, 1/8" trim unless noted)
                  Chuck eye steak, choice, 0" trim            2
                  Top round (London broil), select            3.5
                  Flank steak, choice, 0" trim                4.5
                  Bottom round (Rump roast), select           4.5
                  Eye of round roast, choice                  4.5
                  Top round (London broil), choice            4.5
                  Ground beef, 10% fat                        5
                  Tri-tip roast, choice, 0" trim              5
                  Bottom round steak, select                  5
                  Bottom round (Rump roast), choice           5.5
                  Round tip roast, choice                     5.5
                  Bottom round steak, choice                  5.5
                  Flat iron steak, choice, 0" trim            6
                  Ground beef, 15% fat                        6.5
                  Top sirloin steak, choice                   7
                  Ribeye (Delmonico) steak, choice, 0"
                    trim                                      7.5
                  Ground beef, 20% fat                        7.5
                  Filet mignon (Tenderloin steak), choice     8
                  Ground beef, 25% fat                        8
                  New York strip steak, choice                8
                  Ground beef, 30% fat                        8.5
                  T-bone steak, choice                        9
                  Chuck arm pot roast, choice                 9
                  Brisket (flat cut or first cut), choice     9.5
                  Porterhouse steak, choice                   9.5
                  Tenderloin roast, choice                    11.5
                  Chuck blade roast, choice                   12.5
                  Prime rib, choice                           13.5
                  Rib roast (large end), choice               14.5

Pork (4 oz. cooked, 1/8" trim unless noted)
                  Tenderloin, 0" trim                         2.5
                  Sirloin roast, boneless, 0" trim            4
                  Top loin chop, boneless                     4.5
                  Top loin roast, boneless                    4.5
                  Loin chop, with bone                        5.5
                  Pork chop (Loin rib chop), boneless         6.5
                  Shoulder blade steak                        6.5
                  Pork chop (Loin rib chop), with bone        6.5
                  Ground pork                                 9
                  Country style ribs, with bone               10.5
                  Spareribs, no trim specified                12.5

Lamb (4 oz. cooked, 1/8" trim)
                  Shank, domestic                             5
                  Loin chop, Australian                       6.5
                  Leg, domestic                               6.5
                  Shank, Australian                           7
                  Leg, Australian                             8
                  Shoulder blade chop, domestic               8.5
                  Loin chop, domestic                         10
                  Shoulder arm chop, domestic                 10.5
                  Rib roast, Australian                       11
                  Shoulder arm chop, Australian               11
                  Shoulder blade chop, Australian             12
                  Rib roast, domestic                         13

Veal (4 oz. cooked, no trim specified)
                  Cutlet                                      2
                  Shoulder arm steak                          4
                  Shoulder blade steak                        4
                  Loin chop                                   6
                  Rib roast                                   6

For comparison (4 oz. cooked)
[check][check]    Flounder                                    0.5
[check][check]    Wild Coho Salmon                            1

[check][check] Best Bite. (1) Other companies' numbers are probably
similar.

* Estimate.

Daily Saturated Fat Limit (for a 2,000-calorie diet): 20 grams.
Source: USDA and company information. The use of information from this
article for commercial purposes is strictly prohibited without written
permission from CSPI.
COPYRIGHT 2010 Center for Science in the Public Interest
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2010 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:INSIDE THE MEAT CASE
Author:Hurley, Jayne; Liebman, Bonnie
Publication:Nutrition Action Healthletter
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2010
Words:3280
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