The Mississippi poultry industry's reaction to the new U.S. Department of Agriculture nutrition labeling rule, which will take effect on Jan. 1, 2012 and targets poultry and other meat, has been a mix of questions and concern.

The new regulation will require certain poultry and meat products to have nutrition information on the package or in some other way available at point-of-purchase. As the rule was only published in the Federal Register on Dec. 29, some industry members feel rushed to comply. "All of this is kind of out of the blue," said Dr. Byron Williams with Mississippi State University's department of food science, nutrition and health promotion. According to Williams, it is unusual to have a rule published in the Federal Register take effect within a year of publication.

Other industry members are taking a look at the cost. The USDA has estimated the cost of the nutrition labeling requirement at $150 million over a 20-year period. Mark Leggett, president of the Mississippi Poultry Association, said the new rule won't be a huge cost to the industry, as many processors already have labels and will simply have to add on the new information. But, he said, any extra production cost during a time when costs are already increasing could make an impact. "We are seeing fuel and grain costs rise," said Leggett. "Perhaps the biggest concern in 2011 is rising input costs. We don't need any extra expenses."

Overall, the industry will keep an eye on the impact the rule has on poultry business, on both the production and consumer sides. "Could this new requirement be beneficial? Certainly it could," said Williams, "if consumers use it. If consumers do not read the nutrition label, are getting no benefit from it, but are paying for it nonetheless, then it obviously is just an extra expense with no benefit."