OK….let me warn you….I am frustrated. While paging through the newest edition (July/August 2013) of food network magazine, I came across the following snipet:
Change is good. I like change, I embrace change. I’d even go so far as to say I love change. But this is ridiculous! It has taken me years – literally years – to know what I’m doing when buying meat. And now, The National Pork Board and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association think the names of cuts of meat need to be less confusing. How is changing the names of 350 cuts of meat going to be LESS confusing?
I envision myself wandering through the meat section of my supermarket without a clue. Perhaps this is a way to make butchers feel loved and needed. Perhaps it’s a way to charge more for certain cuts because they’ll have flashier names. Perhaps it’s a way to sell new editions of old cookbooks – you know, with the new names for each cut of meat in the recipes. Perhaps I’m wrong and there will be no confusion and the transition will go smoothly…..you know, like all transitions……..NOT!
Here are some questions I have (in no particular order):
- Will there be a chart that crosswalks me from the ‘old’ to the ‘new’ names?
- Have the butchers in my local grocery store been trained to assist customers with the changes?
- Why are we just being told about these changes when they are “starting this summer”?
- Who decided on these changes and why wasn’t I consulted?
And here are some answers I was able to find:
- For the naming changes to pork products, I was able to find a chart that crosswalks me from the ‘old’ names to the ‘new’ names in an simple fashion. I found it at www.porkbeinspired.com in .pdf format. I was not so lucky with finding an easy-to-read chart for changes to beef products. I found a lot of information about the changes and some lengthy spreadsheets at http://www.meattrack.com/urmis/update/.
- The naming conventions (known as the Uniform Retail Meat Identification Standards or URMIS) are not mandatory; however about 85% of retailers will be adopting them by switching to a new standard meat labeling system. You’ll have to stay tuned when it comes to your grocery store.
- Apparently, the changes were announced in April – to whom they were announced, I do not know. I certainly am not a meat industry insider, but I do my fair share of grocery shopping, cooking, magazine reading, cooking show watching, etc. And the snipet in food network magazine was the first I’d heard of the changes. I even spent some time talking to folks in the beef and pork industries in late-January and no one mentioned it!
- The changes were “approved by” the Industry-Wide Cooperative Meat Identification Standards Committee. The what? The ICMISC. Never heard of them. Apparently, the new naming is the result of an 18-month research study that found that “consumers are often confused by the different names for similar cuts of meat.” OK, I buy that. But what I don’t understand is how adding NEW/MORE names for cuts of meat will solve the problem. Ugh…..
Of course, learning that there is such a thing as the ICMISC makes me ask more questions like: who works for them? how much tax revenue is wasted on studies that lead to unnecessary renaming of meats? what’s next – renaming produce?
I think the most distressing (ok, perhaps a bit dramatic) thing I learned when researching these naming changes is that “the new policy gets away from names based on the animal’s anatomy, and will use titles that are more consumer-friendly.” In our “everyone gets a trophy”/”we can’t have a valedictorian because we don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings” world, I shouldn’t be surprised that we’re dumbing down meat too. We wouldn’t want people to actually have to learn a little something about the animal’s anatomy and understand where their food comes from [yes, this should be read in a manner dripping with sarcasm]. What ever happened to educated consumers?
I am not against making things easier for people, I am not against standards – in fact I think it would be easier for women to buy a pair of jeans if there were denim sizing standards – and I am not against change when it is needed. I am, however, frustrated that in a society with sooooo many things that need improvement, we choose to focus on and spend money on something that is working relatively well for the majority of people and will have little impact on quality of life. Let’s spend research dollars on improving the welfare system, feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, balancing the budget…..
Were Clara Peller still alive, she’d no longer be asking, “Where’s the beef?” Instead she’d have to ask, “What do we call the beef?”