Names

The objective of this section is to provide helpful information for determining the names of meat products, while emphasizing random-weight meat cuts and processed product names listed on MeatTrack.com.

Compliance with labeling establishes a consistent language premise that eliminates confusion with consumers and provides a common language for the marketing and merchandising of meat products.

This section cannot substitute for the careful review of all of the statutes, regulations and policies required for determining a meat product's name.

This section has excerpts and references information from the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) Web site and from "A Guide to Federal Food Labeling Requirements for Meat and Poultry Products".1

Product Names

The product name is only one of the mandatory features that must be present on the label. The regulations state that the product must be identified by the name specified by the standard—if there is one—or a common and usual name, or a truthful descriptive designation of the product. The regulations are intended to ensure that the product name accurately informs a consumer of a product's identity. In addition, there are detailed requirements in the regulations and labeling policies to ensure that the product identity is clear and prominent to the consumer.

The product name must appear prominently on the principal display panel. Certain regulations and Policy Memoranda specify the size (or relative size) of terms that appear as part of the product name. In general, words in product names or fanciful names may be of a different size, color or type, but in all cases the words must be prominent, conspicuous and legible. No word in a product name (i.e., standardized name, a common or usual name, or descriptive name) should be printed in letters that are less than one-third the size of the largest letter used in any other word of the product name.

Standards of Identity

A standard of identity prescribes a manner of preparation and the ingredients of a product that are to be labeled with a particular name. Numerous product standards have been established by regulation. Foods subject to a standard of identity must be labeled with the name specified in the standard.

FSIS sets standards for the type of meat that must be in products using certain names, sets limits for the amount of fat that can be added to meat products, and restricts some terms from being used in product names.

Examples:

Examples of other standardized meat products include:

Products containing flavoring, seasonings, and added tenderizing solutions that are incorporated into the meat by injecting, tumbling or massaging require qualifying statements as part of the product name. Processed meat products that are cured with additives and products including binders and extenders have specific labeling requirements. Standardized meat product names are complex and require a good understanding of all of the regulations and rules for these products.

A label that bears the name of a standardized food that does not satisfy the requirements of the applicable standard is misbranded.

Scale label examples of standardized meat items:

"Line 1", "Line 2" and "Line 3" in the label examples are references only and not intended to be included in an actual label.

Common and Usual Names

The regulations authorize FSIS to promulgate common and usual names for meat products. FSIS regulations state that any product "for which there is a common or usual name must consist of ingredients and be prepared by the use of procedures common or usual to such products, insofar as specific ingredients or procedures are not (otherwise) prescribed or prohibited."

The Uniform Retail Meat Identity Standards system (URMIS) provides the common names that are accepted by FSIS for naming meat cuts (Food Standards and Labeling Policy Book – Primal Parts and Primal Meat Cuts).

Products that have a common or usual name are misbranded if the correct name is not present on the label.

Scale label examples of common names for meat cuts:

"Line 1", "Line 2" and "Line 3" in the label examples are references only and not intended to be included in an actual label.

Examples of usual meat names include variety meats, parts and byproducts.

Scale label examples of usual names:

"Line 1", "Line 2" and "Line 3" in the label examples are references only and not intended to be included in an actual label.

Descriptive Names

Descriptive terms may be used as a product's statement of identity provided that no standard of identity or common or usual name exists. For meat products, "any descriptive designation used as a product name for a product which has no common or usual name shall clearly and completely identify the product." Product which has been prepared by a specific method—such as salting, smoking, drying, or chopping—must be so described unless the name implies, or the manner of the packaging shows, that the product is subject to the particular form of processing.

"Line 1", "Line 2" and "Line 3" in the label examples are references only and not intended to be included in an actual label.

Geographical Names

By regulation, terms having geographic significance generally may appear without qualification on the labeling of meat only when the product is made in the geographic area mentioned. Terms of geographic significance referring to a locality other than where the product was made may appear on the label of meat products only if qualified by the words "Style", "Type" or "Brand" and accompanied by a "Made In …" phrase that properly identifies where the product is manufactured.

Significant geographic areas that are qualified by the terms "style" and "type" may appear on the labels of meat products when there is a generally recognized style or type of product produced in that particular geographic area. FSIS permits use of geographic terms when accompanied by the qualifying term if the manufacturer can demonstrate that there is a recognized "style" or "type".

"Brand" is used as part of a product name or claim when a style or a type is not recognized or met. A qualifying statement identifying the place where the product is actually made must appear in proximity to "brand" when such a qualifying term is required. The word "Brand" must be the same size and style of lettering as the geographic term, and it must be accompanied with a prominent qualifying statement identifying the particular locality in which the product is prepared.

For years, the idea of branding a retail cut of meat was not allowed as part of the URMIS nomenclature. Online research conducted by the NCBA—funded by the beef checkoff—revealed that consumers were receptive to brand names.

As meat production animals have become larger, Individual Muscles (IMs) were identified and tested. These single muscles met consumer preferences for smaller portion sizes and eating consistency. From a quality and value perspective, these new retail cuts met the criteria typically used for branding an item.

Brand common names are now approved with a strictly defined set of parameters:

Scale label examples of brand names for meat cuts:

"Line 1", "Line 2" and "Line 3" in the label examples are references only and not intended to be included in an actual label.

Where a geographic term has come into general usage as a trade name and has been approved by FSIS as not being geographically significant and, thus, generic, the term may be used without qualification—such as "Old El Paso". The regulation specifically states that the terms "Vienna", "Genoa", "Polish", "Italian", and other similar terms need not be accompanied with a qualifying descriptive term when used on the standardized product.

Historically, the use of geographical trade names has not been approved for the URMIS nomenclature. Online research funded by the beef checkoff revealed that consumers were very receptive to geographical names.

Some geographical locations become known for the preparation, originality and events around certain products. Other geographical areas become famous for the production of certain products. The history behind these areas is noted and well documented.

Geographical trade names must be memorable and communicate a positive quality and valuable message. Geographical common names are now approved with a strictly defined set of parameters:

Scale label examples of geographical trade names for meat cuts:

"Line 1", "Line 2" and "Line 3" in the label examples are references only and not intended to be included in an actual label.

Unqualified and Unapproved Names

Product names cannot be false or misleading. Unqualified meat terms common to the industry but uncommon to consumers—such as "picnic", "butt" and "loaf" must not be used as product names unless accompanied by terms descriptive of the product or with a list of ingredients.

Unapproved meat cut names are not accepted for labeling because they fail to indicate the URMIS approved common name. Unapproved names were developed more for sales promotion or coined as an expression rather than for cut identification. Unapproved and fanciful names can be misleading to a consumer and add to the perplexing and frustrating experience of shoppers. URMIS was established on the "Consumer's Right to Know" and "Truth-in-Labeling". MeatTrack.com provides a comprehensive list of unapproved names cross-referenced to the correct URMIS approved common name. Click here to view the list.

Resources

MeatTrack.com is the home of the Uniform Retail Meat Identity Standards system. URMIS is a science-based identification system that provides the meat industry with standard common names for all beef and pork cuts. The URMIS system was developed to provide a retail meat cut identification system and a standardized nomenclature for every retail meat cut. Click here to go to the "URMIS" menu option for a complete list of beef and pork meat cuts common names.

Product Name Search Application

In 2016 and 2017, working with the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service, MeatTrack.com's processed meats and byproduct names were updated based on the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Policy Memoranda's, Food Standards and Labeling Policy Book, and the Customer Help section of the FSIS website. Below is a Product Name Search Application that has a list of the Label Types for "9 CFR", "Policy Book", "Policy Memo", and "Customer Help" for the processed meats and byproduct product names on MeatTrack.com. The application can be used as a quick way to look up the FSIS source for the names.

Click here to use the Product Name Search Application

Code of Federal Regulations

The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) is the codification of the general and permanent rules published in the Federal Register by the departments and agencies of the Federal Government. It is divided into 50 titles that represent broad areas subject to federal regulation. The 50 subject matter titles contain one or more individual volumes, which are updated once each calendar year on a staggered basis. Each title is divided into chapters, which bear the name of the issuing agency. Each chapter is further subdivided into parts that cover specific regulatory areas. Large parts may be subdivided into subparts. All parts are organized in sections, and most citations to the CFR refer to material at the section level.

The issuing agency for meat names is FSIS, listed under Title 9 of the Code of Federal Regulations. Click here to view the current Title 9 CFRs.

FSIS Policy Memoranda

From the inception of FSIS, informal policy standards have been established by Policy Memoranda. These memos provide guidance on labeling for specific products and standards. FSIS assigns each Policy Memoranda a number and some include alphabetic letters. From time to time, an update is published that provides information on new and rescinded Policy Memoranda's. Click here to view the current FSIS Policy Memoranda's.

Food Standards and Labeling Policy Book

The FSIS Food Standards and Labeling Policy Book is intended to be guidance to help manufacturers prepare product labels that are truthful and not misleading. The policy book has topic titles with specific products and standards details. From time to time, there are updates to conform to changes in meat and poultry inspection standards and to reflect any current policy developments. The Labeling "Policy Book" precedents become de facto regulation. Click here to view the current Food Standards and Labeling Policy Book.


References

1 The Labeling and Consumer Protection Staff. Office of Policy, Program, and Employee Development. Food Safety and Inspection Service, U.S.
      Department of Agriculture. (August 2007.) Post, R., Budak, C., Canavan, J., Duncan-Harrington, T., Jones B., Jones, S., Murphy-Jenkins, R.,
      Myrick, T., Wheeler, M., White, P., Yoder, L., and Kegley, M. Hogan & Hartson, LLP. Washington, DC.