'Dry Tare' Rule Pushes Meat Prices Up

CALIFORNIA - An upcoming USDA rule change will modify the method used to weigh fresh meat and poultry in California. The change will bring the state into the same weighing system as every other state in the country and will likely result in a small difference in the amount of product purchased.
calendar icon 9 October 2008
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The current method is called “wet tare,” meaning that moisture contained inside the packaging is separated from the product before it is weighed. Starting today, “dry tare,” will be used, meaning that the moisture is included in the product weight.

For a number of years, California has been the only state in the nation using the wet tare technique. Notably, dry tare is already used in California for “value-added” meat and poultry products, including ribs packaged with barbecue sauce and chicken and turkey with brine solution.

In 2006, a CDFA survey of meat and poultry packing plants found that, in order to meet wet tare requirements, processors were over-packing, amounting—in 2006—to California consumers receiving 1.39 percent more meat than indicated on the package and .43 percent more poultry. Over-packing is a practice that has continued to this day and given consumers more product than they paid for. Based on the survey results, the impact on a family of four purchasing meat and poultry five times per week will be about a dollar more per week.

The rule change requires CDFA and local officials to enforce the law on tare in a manner that does not conflict with federal requirements. The change does not modify other federal and state consumer protections. Packers or retailers who illegally add fluids to product will be subject to enforcement.

CDFA and its Division of Measurement Standards are dedicated to uniform measurement practices nationwide. Uniformity benefits the consumer by allowing for a fair-value comparison of packaged products.

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