A cut below the rest

Russell Wangersky
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“The pork butt — which actually comes from shoulder meat — will be called a Boston roast.”

— from a Reuters news story on the U.S. meat industry’s plan to rename many beef and pork cuts


The acronym isn’t the prettiest one — it’s URMIS, which stands for the Uniform Retail Meat Identity Standards. What URMIS does is give cuts of meats their names — like pork butt and pork chops. And those names are about to change, after 18 months of consumer surveys.

The problem? U.S. customers can’t seem to figure out what’s good for them. Or, more to the point, what’s good.

Beefretail.org spells the problem out like this: “Today’s consumers admit they are confused about fresh meat cuts and they look to you to help them. … The industry has a new, aligned perspective regarding on-pack labeling best practices and a revised Uniform Retail Meat Identity Standards (URMIS) nomenclature that has been consumer-tested and reviewed by the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and Marketing Service (AMS) and the Industry-Wide Cooperative Meat Identification Standards Committee (ICMISC).”

Meattrack.com, another industry site, spells it out even more directly: “Today’s consumers admit that they’re confused about the fresh meat cuts they see in your meat case. They don’t understand the differences between many cuts and just buy ‘whatever looks good.’ They don’t tend to venture beyond 3-4 cuts they’re most familiar with. That’s costing you potential sales.”

There’s a lot of jargon, but the end result is a simplification of the names of meat cuts, and some new and, well, confusing ones.

Pork loin chops, for example, will become Ribeye Chops. Unless it’s top loin chops, which will become New York Chops.

Chuckeye boneless pot roast will become Denver Roast: one kind of beef loin will become the brand-new Petite Sirloin (not to be confused with seven other kinds of sirloin, like Sirloin Bavette Steak, which is to replace the rather-

unattractive-sounding beef loin flap meat steak boneless). Flap meat, somehow, just doesn’t sound very good, so you can understand that name change.

But from there to federal politics, where dressing things up is also apparently important.

In Ottawa this week, the talk has been about the Conservatives’ new attack ads, and the Liberals’ response to those ads. The Tory ads are meant to belittle Justin Trudeau, while the Liberal ads are meant to belittle the Tory ads. (Sorry, that’s a “flap meat” explanation. The Liberal ads are meant to take the high road.)

Anyway, you can pretty much think about the strategists as giggling junior high school boys, high on that particular high that teen boys that age get talking about things like the mysteries of sex. But onwards.

The Liberals have also disclosed that the Tories intend to continue their trashing of Trudeau, and that the next tranche of bile (sorry, no way to pretty that up) is an attempt to have Tory MPs use their constituency mail-out budgets to send attack flyers against the new Liberal leader. The Liberals, of course, have cried foul, something that’s difficult to do because they’ve done the same recently with the mail-outs.

Tory House Leader Peter Van Loan explains sending out political advertising on the taxpayer’s dime like this: “It’s entirely appropriate for Canadians to be informed about those contrasting aspects of leadership they have available.” OK then.

It’s also perfectly available for Canadians to be informed about which kind of car is better suited to their needs, but that doesn’t mean the taxpayer has to foot the bill for car advertising.

If the Tories want to advertise, they should do it with their own money, and there should be clear rules on how much they are allowed to spend.

(Of course, this is the same Peter Van Loan who somewhat confusingly told the House of Commons earlier this week that forcing individually elected MPs to follow the edicts of the Prime Minister’s Office in absolute lock-step was an exercise of the finest kind of democracy — which, of course, is self-serving flap meat at its best.)

Here’s the bottom line in the whole equation: people may vote badly. They may make mistakes, have big dreams and get swayed by fear and anger.

But they’re not stupid.

The current political trend seems to be that the best way to stay in office is to believe voters are sheep and treat them with the kind of disregard sheep are used to. That may work for a while, but it will only work until there is some kind of legitimate option.

No one likes to be treated like an idiot.

You can call it “Boston Roast” all you like.

Everyone in this country knows what pork butt looks like.


Russell Wangersky is The Telegram’s

editorial page editor.

Email: rwanger@thetelegram.com.

Organizations: Reuters, Industry-Wide Cooperative Meat Identification Standards Committee, Tory MPs USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service FSIS Marketing Service Conservatives House of Commons

Geographic location: U.S., Boston, Ottawa

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Recent comments

  • Pierre Neary
    April 29, 2013 - 20:14

    Having Trudeau as PM will be a well needed breath of fresh air.

  • Christopher Chafe
    April 28, 2013 - 11:29

    Just wait for the next election to be called, the venomous spider that is the federal leader of your party Russell will be swinging just as bad as Harper.

  • Maggy Carter
    April 27, 2013 - 15:24

    Whatever way you cut it, red meat is probably something you should eat only rarely. Recent studies show the carnitine content combines with gut bacteria to create TMAO, which in turn causes heart disease. But now that you've done meat Russell, maybe you could check on fish - notably salmon. It would be nice if someone in the media let us know when all the diseased salmon have made their way through local stores like costco. I am one of the many people who stopped buying salmon altogether after the CFIA approved the sale of a quarter million New Brunswick salmon with infectious anemia - a flu like virus. The U.S. won't let them across the border so they're being sold here. A penny wise, pound foolish decision. Following the CFIA announcement, the retail price dropped about $4 a kilo and has yet to recover. Personally I will wait until they say the salmon has cleared the system, then wait a few months for good measure before buying it again.

  • Will Cole
    April 27, 2013 - 12:34

    Speaking of meat, there's a whole whack of rancid spoilage going on in Labrador who's Best Before Date is May 13. Now, when it finallys gets tossed out with the rest of the garbage, the Harper-ites may be dutifully looking for a token cabinet rep for NL. You know... the same role the Cormorant Cowboy filled after the successful ABC campaign. I'm sure that, in view of the Burton Winters tragedy and the cuts to DFO and Coast Guard, neither Peter MacKay nor Keith Ashfield would be tolerable to the people of NL. So what about Gail Shea? Of course, considering my personal opinion that HARPER-ITES HAVE AN INTRINSICALLY BULLYING NATURE, they'll probably go and appoint MacKay again, if only to use as a stick to poke NLers in the eye with.

  • W Bagg
    April 27, 2013 - 08:17

    The Tory`s attacking the opposition instead of touting there own attributes is like telling my girlfriend she should marry me because the guy next door has bad breath, teh guy across the street is fat and her male co-worker is ugly, instead of advertising my own handsomeness and charm