I recently read an article titled, “19 reasons why you might want to stop buying supermarket meat,” written by Dan Myers for The Daily Meal. The article was sent to me from a reader, and I appreciate the opportunity to respond to the statements made in this piece.
Myers paints an ugly picture of safe, wholesome meat that’s available at affordable price points.
Here is an excerpt of his opening lines, “If you’re like most Americans, you most likely buy your meat at the supermarket. Be it raw chicken and steaks from the butcher case or cold cuts from the deli counter, we tend to not give much thought to the meat we buy beyond whether it’s fresh and how much it costs. But you might want to think twice before buying your next Styrofoam-and-cellophane-wrapped chicken breast, because what we’re about to tell you may have you buying all your meat at the organic butcher shop from now on.”
Myers’ reasons for avoiding the supermarket meat counter include things like E.coli, Salmonella, Listeria, animal abuse, expiration dates, freezer meat, antibiotics and fecal matter contamination.
While I won’t attempt to address all 19 of his points in one blog post, here are six reasons why I trust my supermarket’s meat options, and why consumers should, too:
1. Meat at the grocery store is safe.
According to FactsAboutBeef.com, “The U.S. has worked hard to have one of the safest food supplies in the world. USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) is required by law to provide inspection for all federally-regulated beef establishments. Without the inspector present, the establishment cannot process cattle for beef. After the animal is slaughtered, a USDA inspector will perform additional inspections to ensure the safety of the beef carcass. Once approved, the carcass is stamped with a non-toxic ink stamp to show that the animal has passed the USDA inspections. If a carcass does not pass the USDA inspections, it is condemned, stamped as such, and does not enter the food supply. All meat products are inspected by USDA inspectors before they leave the federally-regulated establishment.”
What’s more, the beef industry has invested more than $550 million annually on safety research and implementation of beef safety interventions.
2. When handling raw meat, it’s up to me to play it safe.
Consumers are responsible for food safety, as well. When it comes to buying, prepping, cooking and handling raw meat, there are several things to keep in mind, including:
- Buy beef that is cold to the touch, with intact packaging and no excessive pooling liquid. When shopping, put raw meat in your grocery cart last and bag it in its own plastic bag to prevent cross-contamination. Keep an insulated cooler in the car to store perishables in until you get home. Make sure your grocery store stop is the last of your errands before heading home.
- Store raw beef in the fridge or freezer. Keep beef cold until it’s time to cook. Your fridge should be set at 40˚F or less. Use fresh beef within a few days or freeze it until it is needed. Freeze in original packaging for two weeks or wrap in aluminum foil or plastic freezer bags for longer storage.
- Defrost frozen beef in the fridge, not on the counter. Avoid the “danger” zone between 40-120˚F where bacteria is most likely to grow.
- When preparing beef, work on a clean plastic cutting board.
- Wash your hands, knives and other utensils in hot soapy water after each use. Don’t prep vegetables on the same cutting board you just used to prep your raw meat.
- Wash your hands often. It bears repeating, but cross-contamination often happens from our hands, so play it safe, and wash often after shopping, prepping or cooking raw meat.
According to FactsAboutBeef.com, “Farmers and ranchers are committed to raising safe, wholesome beef. In addition, the U.S. has a complex residue control system, with rigorous processes for approval, sampling, testing, and enforcement activities. The National Residue Program is designed to prevent the occurrence of violative levels of chemical residues in meat and poultry products.”
Watch this video about antibiotic residues from the Food Dialogues to learn more about this topic.
4. Grocery store meat is affordable with plenty of options in one easy place to shop.
While I’m lucky to have a freezer full of beef we’ve raised on our ranch, we still purchase meat to supplement our freezer stash. Whether it’s fish, chicken, pork or beef, I’ve become quite the savvy shopper when it comes to buying meat on sale and saving it for later. At my local store, meat always goes on sale on Tuesdays, with new specials being offered in the coupon mailer. However, I’ve started shopping on Mondays when the grocers clear out the older items to make way for the new specials. I’ve gotten super cheap ribeyes that way, and I stock up on our favorite cuts for grilling season. Buying in bulk, buying on sale and communicating with your grocery store’s meat manager are great ways to learn the best times to buy and which items will be on sale soon.
5. The grocery store has organic, natural, grass-fed and other options, too.
In his article, Myers suggests that folks should skip the local grocery store and choose a strictly organic butcher shop. Organic is a great option for folks who are seeking that method of beef production; however, organic doesn’t mean it’s safer than conventionally-raised beef. Plus, if I want to seek a specific labeling program like Certified Angus Beef, Meyer Natural, USDA Prime, or any other high-end, natural, organic, grass-fed or locally-raised beef options, chances are my local grocery store carries those choices for me to select from.
6. Grocery stores are local business that I’m proud to support.
Let’s face it. The margins in any retail grocery store business are often razor thin. I’m happy to support my local grocery store, and as a beef producer, I love perusing the meat case and shopping for steals on steaks, roasts, burgers and beef ribs for my family to enjoy. While my homegrown beef is hard to beat, I can confidently say that the beef I buy at retail is just as safe and wholesome as what I already have in my own freezer.
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Penton Agriculture.
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