There are four “big” livestock present on the market: cows, chickens, pigs, and sheep, and chances are you’ve likely enjoyed all of the above at some point in your life. However, unless you’re in the restaurant industry or are a particularly talented cook, you have probably never received formal instruction on how to safely handle meat. For the vast majority of us, we learned everything we know about safely handling beef or chicken in our mom’s kitchen or at our dad’s grill.
And if you don’t know how to handle meat safely, then we can help. As expert butchers who receive meat direct from sustainable ranches here in West Michigan, we take pride in delivering bulk meat packages directly to your door. It’s safe to say we know a thing or two about food handling. So if you’re an aspiring gourmet who lives in fear of accidentally giving your dinner guests food poisoning, you don’t need to worry anymore.
Here is a simple guide for you to follow after you’ve gone to your local meat markets or picked out one of our meat packages online.
Selecting Your Meats
Whether you’re browsing our online meat packages, visiting the local butcher, or simply heading to the grocery store, you should select your meats very carefully. While everything we sell meets rigorous food safety standards, we can’t make the same guarantee for the local deli counter.
You want to avoid picking meats that have obvious discoloration or a strong odor. You also want to avoid ammonia-like odors from fish, as that’s a sign that something could be wrong. You should also avoid any meat packages that look damaged, so keep an eye out for tears, leaks, and other signs of contamination. If sealed meat packages contain any rips, the meat has likely been exposed to harmful bacteria.
Fortunately, human beings have an instinctive revulsion to the smell of spoiled meat, so when in doubt, trust your nose.
Handling The Meat
Remember: Bacteria can spread quickly between your hands and the meat, and vice versa, so wash thoroughly with soap and warm water for at least 30 seconds after handling meat of any kind. Raw chicken can be particularly dangerous, as poultry is known for carrying salmonella.
When cooking with raw meat, wash your hands as soon as you’re done physically touching the meat. Don’t handle any other cooking implements or ingredients before you’ve washed your hands. Even a quick touch can transfer dangerous bacteria onto other foods or utensils, so err on the side of caution and wash up first.
You should also make sure to prepare and handle meat on a surface separate from other cooking materials. Keep vegetables and other ingredients away from the raw meat, especially if they’re not being cooked together. Use a separate cutting board and clean all utensils after they’ve touched raw meat.
Storing The Meats
Uncured raw meat generally lasts safely for around three days in a refrigerator before it starts to go bad, but that can vary depending on the type of meat and how it was handled before you purchased it. If you want to make it last longer, you need to promptly freeze it. If you seal it in an airtight package before freezing, then it should be safe for several months at a time.
Keep your freezer as close to 0°F (-17.8°C) as possible to help retain nutrients and keep the food fresh.
Hopefully, you know these facts already and have for some time if you’re working with meats often. For those of you buying bulk meat packages for the first time and wondering what to do, keep these raw meat handling facts in mind as best as you can. Keeping yourself safe and healthy should be the top priority.