Uniform Retail Meat Identity Standards (URMIS) Overview


The URMIS program was established in 1973 by the Industry-Wide Cooperative Meat Identification Standards Committee (ICMISC). The consumer-oriented identification system was developed to simplify and standardize the perplexing array of fresh meat cuts and their names. When work on the URMIS system began, well over 1,000 different names had been given to the then 315 retail cuts of beef, pork, veal, and lamb. The URMIS program, adopted by food stores, was seen as a guarantee for consumers that the same cut of meat would have the same name in every store, in every city across the country. URMIS later led to the development of U.P.C.s for fresh meats.

The mission of URMIS was to reduce and eliminate consumer confusion at the meat case and support consumers' right to know what specific cuts they were purchasing. URMIS included recommended cooking methods and a naming system to help the consumer better understand the value of each cut.

URMIS was established on the following principles:

  • The "Consumer's Right to Know"
  • Reduce and eliminate confusion at the meat case
  • Establish a universal language of meat cuts
  • Truth-in-labeling
  • A uniform label format that includes:
    • Kind of meat (i.e., beef, pork, lamb, veal)
    • Primal
    • Retail cut
  • An informed consumer will:
    • Become a better meat consumer
    • Take advantage of various merchandising programs
  • Include recommended cookery methods for each retail cut
  • Provide tools for the consumer and industry to better understand value

Since 1973 there have been a number of updates to URMIS. The updates included the adoption of scanning, new subprimals and cuts, advances in branding and processed products, improvements in tracking and tracing products, and U.P.C. assignments and maintenance.

URMIS Publications:

1973 URMIS Publication
1973 URMIS Publication
1973 URMIS Publication
1973 URMIS Publication

For information regarding the Universal Product Code (U.P.C.), click here.

Why URMIS is needed

Using URMIS provides consistency with meat cut names and helps eliminate consumer confusion and frustration. For example, an item that has an URMIS name of Beef Strip Steak Boneless may be referred to as a New York Steak in one part of the country and a Kansas City Steak in another part of the country. This differentiation in the naming of the same cut of meat can cause confusion and frustration when a consumer is trying to purchase a specific cut of meat. The use of URMIS eliminates confusion and makes the consumer shopping experience pleasurable.

Imagine you are on vacation and traveling to see relatives in another part of the country. Upon arriving at your relatives' home, they decide to have a barbeque to celebrate the reuniting of family and friends. You volunteer to bring the meat and ask what type of meat would be the favorite. The choice is thick-cut beef steaks. You find the nearest grocery store and ponder your choice for a thick-cut beef steak. From past experience, you would purchase a Beef Strip Steak. You go into the store to the meat department and you begin to look for the Beef Strip Steaks, expecting that this should only take a few moments. Unfortunately, the Beef Strip Steaks are nowhere to be found. After countless minutes looking through the meat case, you grow frustrated and finally select a beef package that appears to look like the desired cut. You leave feeling frustrated, confused and apprehensive—not understanding why the store didn't have the choice that you can get at home.

Back home, you decide to investigate this issue. After asking a number of supermarket meat associates, you finally find someone that is from the same part of the country where your relatives live. He informs you that a Beef Strip Steak is also called a Kansas City Steak where your relatives live. Your frustration with this issue now leads to another question – why is the same cut of meat referred to by different names?

Had the approved URMIS name of Beef Strip Steak Boneless been labeled on the package and been universally used, this consumer would not have been confused. This name would have been universally placed on all packages of Strip Steaks, as well as Kansas City Steaks, that were this particular cut of beef. Using URMIS provides consistency with meat cut names and helps eliminate consumer confusion and frustrations.

URMIS provides consistency and efficiency in the meat department in pricing and scaling, as well as the training of new employees. Inconsistencies with scale, PLU and order guides can be eliminated by utilizing URMIS, thus eliminating inaccurate labeling and pricing of meat products. Use of the standardized naming system provided by URMIS can alleviate communication issues and sales data comparison and reporting issues.

You are the head meat merchandiser of a large retail grocery chain with divisions all over the country. You are trying to compare sales data from different divisions around the country. If each division is not on URMIS and they are creating and using their own names, then reporting can be a tedious task. If URMIS was used universally, it would make data comparison easy.

Another advantage of URMIS is that it makes sales data for marketing more accurate and efficient by error-proofing data that is taken from Point of Sale (POS) terminals. Using URMIS with POS descriptions provides a basis for accurate market level (syndicated) data.

At the present time, most category management is done at the category and subcategory level. Narrowing sales data down to the cut level requires consistent and accurate descriptions. URMIS ensures both consistency and accuracy at the meat cut level.

Good communication is essential in any retail operation. Imagine how much easier it would be in requesting and setting up new items if everyone were using URMIS for descriptions. This would be beneficial for both the person requesting the new item as well as the person setting it up. The communication would be better between retailers and suppliers if they were all using URMIS.

Not only is URMIS beneficial to retailers, it is also beneficial to suppliers. The USDA has adopted URMIS for fresh beef, pork, lamb, and veal products that are processed in USDA-inspected plants. The current trend is toward case-ready products; thus, URMIS provides consistency in the labeling of meat products and it provides consistency throughout the supply chain.

Before URMIS was created, "fanciful" names were used to promote and increase sales on meat cuts is some grocery stores. In some instances, the price was increased on the cut with the "fanciful" name. This became an issue because the same cut of meat sold for a lower price at a competitor's store and at another store in the same grocery store chain. This "fanciful" name created consumer confusion and distracted the consumers’ ability to make comparisons. Unfortunately, this behavior brought about mislabeling claims from consumers.

The Federal Meat Inspection Act of 1906, administered by the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), is the statute that governs labeling. The regulation that meat cut names fall under is listed under the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Tile 9, Part 317.344. URMIS provides the common names that are accepted by FSIS for naming meat cuts.

In recent years, the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Act of 2002 has driven new standards and technology for tracking and tracing meat products. An essential component of these standards is product identification. URMIS provides the industry with a universal identification system for meat cuts.

Clear communication is a necessity in multi-level industries, such as the meat industry. To achieve clear communication, systematic and universal terminology is imperative. URMIS eliminates the terminology barrier in the meat industry. By using a universal language, all of the people in the meat chain are familiar with what is being discussed; this, in turn, eliminates confusion and the process becomes routine. URMIS reduces miscommunications by providing a common language.


Today, URMIS provides a universal language for meat cuts. It also provides guidelines for a uniform label format indicating the type of meat, the primal and the retail cut. The new label format resulted in truth-in-labeling. The benefit to the industry is a well-informed, better-educated meat consumer who takes advantage of a variety of merchandised cuts.

Below are the primary benefits of URMIS:

  • Terminology – provides a universal naming system for meat cuts; accepted terminology for the industry to use throughout the supply chain
  • Reduces consumer confusion – unique, consistent terminology
  • Consistency – provides consistency in scale guides, order guides and PLU guides; leads to accurate labeling and pricing of meat products
  • Training – helpful in training of new employees; URMIS creates the standard all employees can follow
  • Industry-linking – correlation between IMPS and URMIS for the institutional meat industry
  • Regulation – meets regulatory criteria for identification of meat cuts
  • Tracking – ability to compile scan data for meat case management; allows for multi-store data compilation
  • Organization – organization and merchandising in retail stores; organizes sales data for accurate financial figures
  • Communication – helps eliminate miscommunications across the industry
  • Marketing – acts as a tool in retailer marketing and merchandising strategies

Over the years, using URMIS in Category Management Systems, Value-Based Marketing and Direct Product Profitability has added many residual benefits to the industry.

What the skeptics say

There are skeptics that say the URMIS system is not needed. To be able to communicate effectively in any situation, society must share common meanings and terminology. When defining a term, it must be specific and unique on its own. Combining these terms is what creates language. Having the same, agreed upon terms in a society helps eliminate confusion and establishes a language premise, which everyone can follow. Without agreed upon terms, society would be using different words to identify the same object, causing confusion. Likewise, using the URMIS system as the defined terminology of meat cuts provides the industry and consumers with the language premise to prevent confusion.

Skeptics argue that URMIS is confusing
The original purpose of the URMIS system was to mitigate consumer confusion—due to the different names being used on meat cuts—and provide consistent label identification of meat cuts. The original terminology used in the URMIS system was based on the basic skeletal structure of beef, pork, lamb, and veal. Skeptics argue that the names used to describe the skeletal structure like breast, shoulder, chuck, blade, rib, loin, sirloin, leg, and round are confusing. Fact is, as humans, we can identify with this; we have a skeletal and muscular system that has universal, anatomical names that are used.

Every industry has terminology that governs the industry. In recent decades, the computer industry has revolutionized consumers. To use a computer, consumers became acquainted with such terms as "hard drive" and "RAM." Like the URMIS system, the computer industry based its terminology on the early systems that were used. Likewise, when the URMIS system was created, it was based on the terminology of the animal anatomy. Compared to terms used in the computer industry, the URMIS system is simple.

Skeptics argue that URMIS is not appealing
In the past, it was argued by some that URMIS is not appealing—especially in regards to food. The original URMIS system included terms such as lip, butt and ball. Many of the word choices used were based on the look of the cut of meat. In the 2014 URMIS system update, a complete list of unappealing names was addressed and the new common name system eliminated the unappealing names.

Skeptics argue that marketing and merchandising is difficult when using URMIS
Retailers are challenged with the creation of a company image while also maintaining the clarity of marketing and merchandising campaigns. The following shows the process by which this can be achieved using the URMIS system:

Marketing and Merchandising

Overall, it is essential that URMIS is used in the entire process of procurement, production, receiving, marketing, and merchandising. Without URMIS, effective data research and product sales efforts cannot be achieved to maximum capacity.

URMIS–IMPS Integration

Identifying and determining the nomenclature for meat cuts starts with the larger wholesale cuts. The language, descriptions and standards used for those wholesale cuts are based on the Institutional Meat Purchase Specifications (IMPS).

Originally designed for the institutional segment, IMPS has become the industry standard for procurement of meat products used in retail. Additionally, the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) uses IMPS as a gateway for admission of meat cuts to be approved by the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). The AMS and the FSIS rely on URMIS as the source for meat cut nomenclature.

Since its inception, the URMIS system has been used by the AMS to ensure the industry provides the clear standards needed for labeling retail meat cuts. The IMPS and URMIS systems serve separate yet integrated roles for the meat industry.

In 2022, a complete alignment of URMIS and IMPS was conducted and a new reference interface system was developed. The URMIS and IMPS systems were aligned by determining one-to-one matches between URMIS and IMPS items. The goal was to identify the same portion and retail cut items that are included in both URMIS and IMPS and update the cross-reference of URMIS common names to IMPS cuts that are typically sold whole to consumers.

MeatTrack.com maintains complete IMPS information for beef, pork, lamb, and veal. Click here to access the IMPS section.