- When shopping for groceries, purchase meat products last.
- Never buy meat in packaging that is torn or leaking.
- Refrigerate or freeze fresh meat as soon after purchasing as possible. Keep raw meat separate from other foods in the refrigerator.
- Store meats in the coldest part of the refrigerator or in the refrigerator’s meat bin. Refrigerator temperature should be kept at or below 40°F. Freezer temperatures should be at or below 0°F.
- You may freeze meat in its original store wrappings. For long-term freezing, over wrap with aluminum foil, a plastic bag, or freezer paper to protect meat from freezer burn.
- Cook or freeze ground and variety meats within two days of purchasing. Beef, veal, lamb, or pork should be cooked or placed in the freezer within three to five days.
- Can store unopened canned meat products like chili and stew for two to five years if kept in a cool, dark pantry. Discard damaged cans that are leaking or bulging. Use opened canned meats within three to four days, or freeze contents.
- Always wash hands with warm, soapy water for 20 seconds before and after handling meat.
- Prevent cross-contamination by keeping raw meat away from other food. Use a separate cutting board for meat products and wash utensils, countertops, and cutting boards with hot, soapy water.
- Marinate meat in a covered dish in the refrigerator.
- Meat can be defrosted using one of three methods. Do not defrost meat at room temperature - this could cause bacteria growth.
- Refrigerator: Defrosting meat in the refrigerator allows slow, safe thawing. Make sure thawing meat juices do not drip onto other food. Meat defrosted in the refrigerator may be refrozen before or after cooking.
- Cold water: Cold water may also be used for faster thawing, by placing food in a leak-proof plastic bag. Submerge the meat in cold tap water and change the water every 30 minutes. Cook immediately after thawing.
- Microwave: If defrosting meat in a microwave, cook immediately after thawing. During microwave defrosting, some areas of the meat may begin to cook, creating temperatures high enough for bacteria to thrive. Foods defrosted in the microwave or using cold water should be cooked before refreezing because they may have been held at temperatures higher than 40°F.
- Don’t eat raw meat.
- Cook all raw beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, chops, and roasts to a minimum internal temperature of 145°F as measured with a food thermometer before removing meat from the heat source. For safety and quality, allow meat to rest for at least three minutes before carving or consuming. For reasons of personal preference, consumers may choose to cook meat to higher temperatures.
- Cook all raw ground beef, pork, lamb, and veal to an internal temperature of 160 °F as measured with a food thermometer.
- Discard any meat left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours - 30 minutes if meat is left outside at a picnic or in a hot car.
- Divide large amounts of leftovers into small, shallow containers and immediately place in the refrigerator or freezer for rapid cooling to prevent bacterial growth.
- Use cooked leftovers within 3 - 4 days.
- Reheat leftovers to 165°F.
- When uncooked beef spoils, it usually changes from bright red in color to reddish brown. Pork and veal change from pink to dull gray. Sticky meat and odors are also indications that the product is starting to spoil and not of the highest quality. The product is typically safe to eat when prepared properly. But, when in doubt, throw it out.