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Facts about All Meat

You Can Keep It Safe

Knowing how to handle meat and food the right way can help you “keep it safe” when it comes to buying, preparing and safely serving food for your family.

Download the Be Food Safe - Safe Grilling Flyer »

Here are some important tips to remember:

At the store
Always buy your perishable foods last.
  • Buy meat and food before the “use by” date on the package.
  • Make sure that meat and perishable foods are cold and that frozen foods are solid when you buy them.
  • Don’t buy packages that are torn, cracked, dented or bulging.
  • Take perishable foods home and refrigerate right away. Never leave food in a hot car.
At-home storage
Make sure your refrigerator is at 40ºF or below; your freezer should be set at 0ºF.
  • Keep your refrigerator at 40ºF or below; freezer at 0ºF.
  • Put cold meat, poultry or fish in a plastic bag before refrigerating so it won’t drip on other refrigerated foods.
  • Freeze meat, poultry or fish right away if you won’t use it within one or two days.
Getting ready
Always wash hands before handling food or meat. Keep kitchen counter and utensils clean and neat.
  • Wash hands with hot water and soap before and after handling meat or other food.
  • Thaw foods in the refrigerator or microwave, not on the kitchen counter.
  • If you use a microwave to thaw foods, cook them immediately.
  • Cut meat, poultry and fish on a different cutting board than other fresh foods like vegetables.
Follow the cooking directions and cook it right.
  • Use a meat thermometer to determine when meat or poultry is properly cooked for best flavor.
  • Use this guide to internal cooking temperatures to determine when meat or poultry is ready to serve.

    Chops, roasts, ground – 160ºF

    Beef, Veal, Lamb
    Roasts/Steaks (medium rare to well-done) – 145ºF–170ºF
    Ground – 160ºF

    Whole, Breast, Ground – 165ºF
Always use clean dishes and utensils to serve your food and meat. Never leave cooked food out for more than 2 hours before or after you eat.
  • Serve cooked food on a clean plate and use clean utensils.
  • Never use the same unwashed plate that you used to thaw the meat to serve that food.
  • Use separate utensils for each dish.
  • Never leave cooked foods out on the table or counter for more than 2 hours.
Put leftovers in the refrigerator right away. When in doubt, throw it out. Better safe than sorry, any day.
  • Put leftovers in the refrigerator or within 2 hours after serving.
  • Reheat leftovers until steaming before serving.

Keep it Safe

Determining Doneness

  • Insert an ovenproof meat thermometer prior to roasting (into the thickest part of the roast, not resting in fat or touching bone) and leave in throughout the cooking process.
  • Or, insert an instant-read thermometer toward end of cooking time (as described above) for about 15 seconds. Remove thermometer; continue cooking, if necessary.
  • For steaks (1/2 inch thick or thicker) insert an instant-read thermometer horizontally from the side, so that it penetrates the thickest part or the center of the steak, not touching bone or fat.
  • Insert an instant-read thermometer into the center or thickest part of a meatloaf or meatball, or horizontally from the side into the center for patties.
  • Cook ground beef (patties, meatloaves, meatballs) to an internal temperature of 160°F (medium doneness), until not pink in center and juices show no pink color.
  • Due to the natural nitrate content of certain ingredients often used in meatloaf, such as onions, celery and bell peppers, meatloaf may remain pink even when a 160°F internal temperature has been reached.
Ground Beef
How Lean is Your Ground Beef?

Ground Beef Label

Ground beef packages are labeled according to USDA standards and by supermarket preferences. Lean to fat ratios vary greatly. The information on the labels will be expressed percent lean to percent fat (80% lean/20% fat, for example).

Ground beef labels may also indicate the primal cut (such as chuck, round or
sirloin) that was used to produce the ground beef. The primal cut does not correlate
to the percent lean/percent fat. For example, ground chuck is available in various lean/fat ratios.

What to Look For
  • Select beef with a bright cherry-red color, without any grayish or brown blotches. The exception is vacuum-packaged beef which, in the absence of oxygen, has a darker purplish-red color. When exposed to the air, it will turn a bright red.
  • Choose beef that is firm to the touch.
  • Make sure the package is cold with no holes or tears.
  • Choose packages without excessive liquid.
  • Purchase beef before the sell-by date.
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