Figuring out just how much fat is in the ground meat you buy at your local supermarket can be confusing.

Anne from Union Bay, B.C., wrote Steele on Your Side to say she is trying to cut back on the amount of fat in her diet but received conflicting messages from butchers at her local Safeway store about fat content.

Anne said a butcher told her that a package of extra lean ground beef contained three to four per cent fat, but the actual packaging said 15 per cent.

She asked: "How does the consumer find out really how much fat is in the meat they buy? Do they all say what they think they want us to hear?"

John Graham of Safeway told CTV News that meat labels can be confusing because they reflect the recommended daily percentage of fat set out by Health Canada -- not what's actually in the meat.

What Anne read on the label is the amount of fat in the product divided by grams, and what the recommended percentage is if you're on a 2,000 calorie a day diet.

A simple way to decode the labels is this: If meat has 10 grams of fat in a serving size, divide the fat content into the size to determine the fat percentage.

10 grams of fat in 100 gram serving size. 10/100 = 10 per cent fat.

Acceptable fat content levels for meat are set out by Health Canada:

  • Extra lean ground beef/chicken/pork may not exceed 10 per cent fat
  • Lean ground meat may not exceed 17 per cent fat
  • Medium ground meat may not exceed 23 per cent fat
  • Regular ground meat may not exceed 30 per cent fat

Keep these regulations in mind when you're shopping. And if you're still confused, it's best to talk to your butcher.

Related: CFIA Meat Standards

Every Friday Consumer Reporter Lynda Steele dips into the viewer mailbag and answers a handful of viewer questions. Watch CTV News for more...