If you are like most meat aficionados, you are always on the lookout for a prime cut of beef. Whether you enjoy an occasional grilled hamburger at home or spend your time overseeing meat procurement for a restaurant, you want to take every measure to ensure that the meat you buy is safe to eat. Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can take to help promote a safe and tasty dining experience. Below are seven best practices for safe handling of meat.
The path to safe meat handling begins with your choice of supplier. For most consumers, this means a trip to your local grocery store. However, a growing number of consumers are buying their meat directly from online retailers. Whether you choose to purchase products from a supermarket or an online provider, make sure the ground beef and other meats you purchase are produced at a plant that is inspected by the USDA. If you are not sure where the meat was produced, you can ask the manager of the store or company.
If you shop for your meat at a local supermarket, there are some steps you can take to ensure that the meat you buy is safe to eat. For instance, you should always shop for your non-perishable items before you select your meat and poultry. If you purchase prepackaged meat, take a minute to inspect the packaging to ensure that it is intact and free of leaks or tears. Finally, do not purchase meat if the “Sell-by” date on the package is expired.
“A refrigerator set to 40°F or below will protect most foods – but not forever. The cool temperatures slow down bacterial growth but they don’t stop the growth completely. So, it’s important to use food in a timely fashion to help maintain freshness and quality. Over time, even chilled foods will spoil.”
– By Diane Van, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service
Refrigeration can help keep meats fresh for a limited period of time by slowing down the growth of bacteria. However, your refrigerator will not keep your meat fresh for an extended period of time. Working with a certified meat company such as Schweid and Sons that has the industry’s highest safety rating is one of the best measures you can take to prevent consumption of meat that has spoiled. Here are some additional guidelines:
You may find yourself with more raw meat than you can consume within the next couple of days. In this case, you should freeze any unused beef. A Kitchen’s Emma Christensen notes that the most important factor to consider is protection from exposure to air. She suggests using plastic wrap or freezer paper to wrap meats tightly. Then, wrap your meat in aluminum foil and place the wrapped meat in a zip-top freezer bag.
“Perishable foods should never be thawed on the counter, or in hot water and must not be left at room temperature for more than two hours…When thawing frozen food, it’s best to plan ahead and thaw in the refrigerator where it will remain at a safe, constant temperature — at 40 °F or below.”
– United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS)
Food safety specialists and the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service recommend that frozen meats be thawed in the refrigerator rather than on the counter or in hot water. This is to help safeguard against the outer layer of meat rising into the “Danger Zone” of 40 and 140 °F, a range in which bacteria can rapidly multiply.
One of the biggest mistakes made by unsuspecting meat lovers is putting their cooked hamburgers on the same platter that they used to hold their uncooked hamburger patties. If you must use the same platter, make sure that you carefully clean the platter immediately after you remove your raw patties from it. Failure to take this step can put you at increased risk for cross-contamination.
“Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds…Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails. Lathering and scrubbing hands creates friction, which helps lift dirt, grease, and microbes from skin.” – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Washing your hands for at least 20-30 seconds is vital to ensuring removal of bacteria and microbes before and after you handle meat. You should also thoroughly clean counter tops, plates, cutting boards, and utensils with soap and hot water.
As outlined above, there are many steps you can take to promote safe meat handling. However, the single best way to deliver a five-star meat experience is to seek the guidance of a trusted expert in the beef industry. Here are just a few of the many reasons why Schweid & Sons is one of the most trusted meat companies:
To learn more about the benefits of buying your meat from Schweid & Sons, we invite you to contact us. Since 1978, we have supplied top quality meat to over 1,000,000 customers. We look forward to showing you why we are known as “The Very Best Burger!”