October 6, 2003
FSIS Proposes New Poultry Classes for Better Labelling
The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service is proposing to amend the official poultry class standards of identity to more accurately describe poultry sold in the marketplace today. FSIS uses poultry class standards to ensure that poultry products are labeled in a truthful and non-misleading manner.
After examining current poultry production methods and poultry class standards of identity, FSIS has determined the existing standards are outdated and too broad to represent poultry being produced today. Advancements in breeding and husbandry have generally shortened the period of time required for birds to attain market-ready weights.
For example, 30 years ago, it took 12 to 13 weeks to produce birds with the physical characteristics of broilers, which are now being produced in as little as six to eight weeks. The proposed classifications would more clearly describe the age and breeding of poultry classes and enhance FSIS' ability to enforce labelling claims.
"FSIS continually strives to keep regulations aligned with advances in the marketplace," said Garry McKee, FSIS administrator. "Ultimately, revising outdated poultry class standards of identity will result in more accurate labelling for consumers."
Richard Lobb, director of communications for the National Chicken Council, said for all practical purposes, the new rules won't change industry labels currently in use. Nearly all are labelled as "young chickens" anyway. "A young chicken is a young chicken."