Frequently Asked Questions

  • What temperature should ground beef be safely cooked to?
    • Ground beef patties should be cooked to 160* to ensure a safe eating experience. Use a meat thermometer to determine degree of doneness.
  • How can I prevent cross-contamination?
  • How long can I refrigerate a product with a sell-by label?
    • For products with a “Sell-By” date on the package, use or freeze the product within 3-5 days from purchase.
  • How do I keep meat safe when transporting?
    • When transporting raw meat, ensure it is in a sealed cooler with plenty of ice. Bacteria can grow above 40*F so ensure the meat stays below 40*F to prevent bacteria growth. When transporting cooked meat, ensure temperature stays above 140*. If temperature falls below 140* reheat meat in the oven or on the stove to 165*
  • What is the safest way to thaw meat?
    • When defrosting meat, its best to plan ahead and place the product in the refrigerator the day before you plan to cook the meat. Never defrost meat by leaving it on the counter or another room temperature surface.
  • How long can cooked meat be left out?
    • Discard any cooked meat that has been left out for more than 2 hours. In hot weather (over 90*) do not leave meat out for more than 1 hour.
  • What is the shelf life of hotdogs?
    • Hot dogs can be safely stored in the refrigerator for 2 weeks unopened and one week if opened.
  • How do I use a meat thermometer?
    • A thermometer is an important cooking utensil to ensure that meat is cooked thoroughly and is safe to consume. Thermometers should be placed in the thickest part of the meat, not touching bone or fat. Compare the reading on the thermometer with USDA recommended safe minimum internal temperatures for the cut of meat being prepared.
  • How long can I keep meat products in the refrigerator?
  • Foodborne illness is more common in the summer months: why is that?
    • Bacteria grow faster in the warm summer months, especially if food is prepared outdoors. Humid, hot weather in combination with outdoor cooking methods provide an ideal situation for bacteria to multiply. To prevent foodborne illness, practice safe, clean food preparation and ensure meat products are cooked and chilled to the appropriate temperature.
  • Does a change in color indicate spoiled meat?
    • Some color change is normal for fresh meat products. If meat is spoiled it will often darken in color and additionally will have an off odor and a sticky surface texture. If a meat product is displaying these characteristics, it should not be used.
  • Will freezer burn cause meat to be unsafe to consume?
    • The white dried patches on improperly sealed or long term frozen items, commonly referred to as freezer burn, will not cause meat products to be unsafe to eat. The portion of meat affected by freezer burn will be dried out when cooked and can be trimmed if needed.
  • Why does fresh meat vary in color from bright red to dark in color?
    • Meat in its freshest state will have a bright purple-red color that comes from myoglobin, one of the pigments responsible for meat color. When myoglobin is exposed to air it forms oxymyoglobin, which gives meat a bright red color. The longer meat is exposed to store lighting and further endures pigment interaction with oxygen, the formation of metmyoglobin causes the meat to turn a brownish-red color.
  • What is the normal color of raw poultry?
    • Color of raw poultry can vary from a bluish color to yellow. Less fat under the skin will cause the meat to appear more blueish colored. Poultry with a yellow tint can be a result of breed or diet of the animal.
  • How do I know meat is reheated correctly?
    • No matter the reheating method, ground meat products should be reheated to 160*F and steaks, chops, and roasts should have a minimal internal temperature of 145*F. Internal temperature should be measured with a meat thermometer.
  • Is it safe to refreeze previously frozen leftovers?
    • Yes. Any leftover meat that has been frozen and reheated to 165*F can be refrozen again safely.
  • Will I be affected by eating meat from an animal that has been given a growth promoter?
    • No. The use of growth promoters has been be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) based on rigorous scientific testing.  Animals are processed in federally inspected facilities and carcasses are randomly sampled for residue testing by the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS). These procedures help assure that safe levels of drug residues are not exceeded.  Growth promotants have been used for 50 years without any negative affect on human health.
  • What is lean-to-fat ratio?
    • Lean-to-fat ratio is the most important value difference indicator in ground meat. According to USDA, ground meat can contain no more than 30% fat. Most ground meat products today are labeled, for example, 80% lean which means the product contains and 80:20 lean-to-fat ratio.
  • What are variety meats?
    • Variety meats include lesser-used cuts of meat, they include brains, hearts, kidneys, liver, sweetbreads, tongue, tripe, among others. These products are excellent sources of many essential nutrients, they are very economical protein sources and they offer unique variations for serving meat.

Video Podcasts and Webinars

  • Grass or grain? Is there a definitively sustainable beef production system?


    The webinar examined the science relating to grass-fed and grain-fed beef in terms of sustainable... read more »

  • 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans Update


    Kris Sollid, Registered Dietitian with the International Food Information Council and Sarah Romo... read more »

  • Meat in the Diet


    read more »

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