New legislation and consumer demand for transparency have made labeling of fresh meat sold at grocery retail more important than ever.

Toledo, Ohio-based Bollin Label Systems offers a variety of labeling solutions for retail meat departments, including nutritional meat grind labels, safe handling, weigh scale labels, custom meat labels, USDA and FDA meat labels, meat inserts, meat cuts and corner ribbons, country of origin labels and promotional labels for beef, pork, poultry, veal, lamb and seafood items.

Over the years, Bollin’s portfolio has expanded to meet the demands of the customer as both technology and labeling laws have changed, said Helen Darrah, the company’s executive director of sales and marketing.

“Improvements in packaging over the years have challenged us to source a wide variety of paper stocks with adhesives to meet industry guidelines set forth by the USDA and FDA,” she said. “It has also forced us to look at what items we will stock as standard items on our shelves that most customers would have to special order from other sources.”

Label items like nutritional grinds and weigh scale labels with the proper safe handling instructions, for example, are important to have readily available to customers at a moment’s notice, she added. Expanding its offering to include USDA grade labels has been very important to Bollin over the years.

Bollin also offers a comprehensive range of proven retail ready meat labelling solutions for flexible, rigid, and semi rigid case ready pack formats. The company’s product portfolio has been designed, Darrah said, to meet the challenges of cold chain distribution and has been proven across a wide range of pack formats including vacuum, shrink, stretch film and overwrap.

“Our labels use high-quality materials to ensure the label is not compromised by moisture or scuffing through the supply chain,” she said. “They offer excellent variable data printing and Grade A barcodes that can be applied at high speed. Combined with vibrant, excellent quality printing this results in a premium looking label at the point of sale.”

In the United States, labeling of meat and poultry products is closely regulated by the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), which has strict rules regarding the content and appearance of meat or poultry product labels.

The rules include everything from dating and safe handling instructions to how large a font must be. Such strict labeling requirements, Darrah said, protect consumers by providing them with the knowledge needed to make informed purchasing decisions. 

“Today’s consumer is more concerned than ever as to where their food is coming from. Bollin strives to help our customers develop and design eye catching labels for retail sale, keeping in mind all the regulatory requirements that must be met.”

The more the company stays on top of these requirements, she added, the more value it can provide to the customers with whom it’s built long trusting relationships.

The Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA), which amended the FD&C Act, requires that most foods bear nutrition labeling. It also requires that food labels bear nutrient content claims and certain health messages to comply with specific requirements.

Although final regulations have been established, Darrah pointed out, regulations are frequently changed.

“It’s very important for our customers in the food industry to remain current with the legal requirements for food labeling,” she said. “As it pertains to meat products in the retail sector, it’s even more critical to stay on top of all regulations, which are ever-changing.”

Bollin works with all of its customers to make sure it helps them create labels that hit all of the minimum requirements, Darrah added.  For customers looking for guidance, for example, the company educates them on the basic anatomy of a meat label. Whether it’s a small or larger retailer, “we do our best to make sure that the label we are helping them create checks all the boxes,” she said.

Bollin has been a part of the grocery landscape for over 50 years, holding trusted and longstanding relationships with multiple stakeholders in the retail meat supply chain, Darrah said.

“From supermarket category management to design agencies and equipment suppliers, our reach ensures seamless label supply. Our team of label experts provide full service, including national coordination of labels, artwork management, stock management, and order optimization.”

Bollin’s flexible mix of printing technologies, she added, ensures that the company offers a solution to meet the specific needs of each customer. The company’s state-of-the-art flexo presses, for instance, are ideal for efficient, high quality long runs. And Bollin’s high-end digital presses are ideal for short runs such as promotional offers, limited edition flavor variants, and seasonal items.

“We ensure that the solution we find our customers is fit-for-purpose and performs at every critical point, Darrah said. “From smooth and consistent thermal printing through to adhesion to blast frozen cartons, our products can do the job. We have a portfolio of proven meat label products for processing plants, retail-ready meat, poultry, small goods and seafood.”

Proposed law would require country-of-origin labeling for beef

US Senators John Thune (R-S.D.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) have unveiled the American Beef Labeling Act, legislation that would reinstate mandatory country of origin labeling (MCOOL) for beef.

The legislation would require the US Trade Representative (USTR), in consultation with the US Secretary of Agriculture, to develop a World Trade Organization-compliant means of reinstating MCOOL for beef within one year of enactment, according to a news release from Thune’s office.

“Transparency in labeling benefits both producers and consumers,” Thune said. “Unfortunately, the current beef labeling system in this country allows imported beef that is neither born nor raised in the United States, but simply finished here, to be labeled as a product of the USA. This process is unfair to cattle producers and misleading for consumers. When you see a ‘product of the USA’ label on the grocery store shelf, it should mean just that.”

To ensure the viability of cattle ranching in the United States, he added, the system in which producers operate must be fair and transparent.

“Americans should know exactly where their beef is coming from, but current USDA labeling practices allow big meatpacking companies to falsely label imported beef as being a product of the USA,” Booker said. “I’m proud to join colleagues in this bipartisan legislation that will restore mandatory country of origin labelling of for all beef products and provide fairness for our family farmers and ranchers.”