Beef, Food Safety and Smart Choices

This post is brought to you by a personal experience that I remembered because I was wide awake way too late at night due to Fort Riley dropping bombs on my doorstep. That didn’t sound right but it was loud and I was awake.

On to the story – the date is February 15, 2011 and DH and I are getting ready to leave for our honeymoon (to where you ask? I didn’t know at the time). We still needed some last minute things before leaving for the airport so I made a quick trip to Wal-Mart to get some more luggage locks, a travel pillow and some mini-shampoo. While in town I decided to be the perfect wife I was (we’d only been married 3 weeks at the time, bear with me) and pick up some lunch. I got The Ninja one of his faves, Rally’s, and I stopped by my favorite grease pit, Long John Silver’s. We ate, caught our flight, had a layover in LAX and while preparing to get on the plane I got the “uh-oh, things aren’t going so well” feeling in my stomach. Sure enough, not more than 10 minutes after we took off from LAX, I was hugging the porcelain plastic toilet-bowl of the airplane facilities. Not my finest moment. I had food poisoning. On my honeymoon. And it lasted for almost two days. This was most definitely not how I had expected this trip to go (we were in Fiji, by the way). Thanks a lot Long John’s, for your undercooked chicken. Yes, I get chicken at LJS. Sue me.

I told you that story to drive home a point – me getting sick wasn’t caused by the farmer who produced the chicken. It had nothing to do with the rate of gain, the feed given to the chicken, how the chicken was raised etc. It had everything to do with the chicken not being cooked thoroughly and killing some mean little bacteria. I have since remedied that problem by asking for my chicken to be cooked longer at Long John’s (and every other fast-food chicken place) and when I make fried chicken at home, I ALWAYS make sure that I cook it to the proper temperature so that it’s safe for myself and my dinner guests to eat.

The moral of those stories is that lots of food borne illness problems can be fixed via proper food safety handling and techniques. If we get sick at home from a hamburger that we only cooked to medium-rare, whose fault is that? It’s not the farmer’s fault and it’s not the packer’s fault. It clearly says on ground beef, purchased from the grocery store, to cook the product to 160F. See?

I took this picture last night at Dillon’s on a package of 85/15 lean ground beef. Look in the bottom right-hand corner, right next to the ‘Peel’ sign – it says “Cook to 160F”. Plain as day.

Ok, enough stories for now. There is a lot going on in the news lately about beef and food safety. I want to address some food safety measures you can take to make sure you’re consuming wholesome American meat products and staying safe all at the same time. Double whammy, right?

1. Cook meat to the recommended temperatures – employ a meat thermometer. I’ve highlighted proper cooking temps before but I will summarize them here too. You can also easily find this information on the packaging from the grocery store (see above).

Ground beef and pork – 160°F
Ground poultry – 165°F

Steaks and lamb – 145°F/155°F/165°F/170°F  medium rare/medium/medium-well/well-done

 Poultry – 180 °F/170 °F  whole chicken and turkey, thighs wings and legs/breast meat
**Salmonella is killed at 165 °F but I usually go to 180 anyway

Pork:  145 °F/160 °F/170 °F  medium rare/medium/well-done
 **Many people worry about trichinosis and tend to overcook pork. However, trich is killed at 140 °F.

2. WASH YOUR HANDS. I know this seems like a no-brainer but if you want the grocery store employees to have their hands clean when they package your meat, you should have equally clean hands when you’re preparing it. I’ll resist going into poo-related comparisons of livestock and people but for goodness sakes, lather up those paws.

3. Don’t cross contaminate surfaces. Don’t slice sirloin strips and then turn around and chop tomatoes with the same stinkin’ knife. Use separate cutting boards and employ Lysol wipes. Check out these sweet cutting boards from Bed, Bath n Beyond – this should help your food safety tactics.

 See? A separate board for beef (red meat in general), fish, poultry and veggies. If you have room/desire for four cutting boards, these should be right up your alley (and if anyone is wondering, I DO have room for these and Christmas is in 12 days, so ya know, get on it).

 4. When in doubt, cook it to well-done. I hate to encourage anyone to eat charred, black and burned meat but if you are truly scared of ingesting bacteria of some sort and getting sick, then just cook it to the well-done temperatures I listed above.

5. If it’s expired product -don’t use it. I feel like this is a no-brainer. Don’t try to be cheap. Buying fresh meat is way cheaper than a doctor’s visit so if it’s green and slimy, just toss it.

I think that’s about it for my food safety suggestions. These are all really simple rules to follow and if you do so, you’re ensuring a safe and nutritious meal  packed with protein for your family.

Until next time,
~ Buzzard ~


7 responses to “Beef, Food Safety and Smart Choices”

  1. What a rotten thing to happen before/on your honeymoon! Thanks for sharing – those cutting boards are SO cute! I might have to go get them, seeing as my one low-quality cutting board has seen its days of use.

  2. Such simple and practical advice that most people should keep in mind a bit more often. Food poisoning must be one of the worst things overall, and to get it at your honeymoon! Oh, so terrible!

    I bought those cutting boards a few years ago for my mom for Christmas (because they shipped nicely!) and I think she uses them a lot. I really like the design, and it's so much smarter to have one cutting board for each types of food (hrm, I should probably pick some up for me too!)

  3. I may steal this line "but for goodness sakes, lather up those paws." I nearly laughed out of my chair. But, a great reminder about how much responsibility we take on at home as we prepare our food.

  4. Linn – it was horrible but thankfully it only lasted for a little bit and I was able to enjoy the rest of the trip! I am seriously considering buying myself those cutting boards – I love brightly colored stuff in the kitchen!

    Web – you can use it. I won't charge you any copyright fees 😉

  5. Great post Brandi! Food poisoning is the worst, I feel like you should earn an award for having to deal with it while a mile high.

  6. Danielle – agreed. I'm going to pass the word to the husband that I deserve an award. In the form of another trip to Fiji.

  7. Thanks for sharing such valuable information about Food Safety.. I am very lucky to get this tips from you.
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