4 Barbecue Safety Tips from the USDA

4 Barbecue Safety Tips from the USDA

by Katie Waldeck

Independence Day is just around the corner. And, if you’re like millions of  Americans, you’ll spend your day grilling up some tasty foods with friends and  family. It’s certainly a fun time, but it’s also important to recognize the  possible dangers that exist in outdoor barbecues. Indeed, food safety is even  more important in the summer, when hot temperatures foster an ideal environment  for bacteria to grow at a faster rate.

Luckily, the United State Department of Agriculture (USDA) has you covered,  with their helpful guide to preventing foodborne illnesses this 4th of July  holiday. Click through to check out their 4 basic tips for safer  grilling. For even more information on food safety, you can download the  USDA’s Ask Karen mobile phone app or check out the web version. You can also call the USDA hotline at  1-888-MPHotline.

1. Keep It Clean

Just because you’re cooking outdoors doesn’t mean you have to forgo the  cleaning you would do inside the house. If you don’t have access to clean water  during your barbecue, you can either bring some with you or use moist towelettes  and clean cloths to keep surfaces and utensils clean. Keep your hands clean  with hand sanitizer.

2. Keep Everything Separate

Have plenty of clean plates, utensils and platters on hand. Don’t ever reuse  platters or cutting boards that have been exposed to raw meat and poultry — if  there’s harmful bacteria present, it can contaminate even safely-cooked  food.

3. Make Sure Food is Cooked  Thoroughly

Meat and poultry can look perfectly done and safe to eat from the outside,  when, internally, that’s not the case.  Use a food thermometer to make  sure your food is cooked to a safe temperature. The USDA suggests the following internal temperatures:

  • Whole poultry: 165 °F
  • Poultry breasts: 165 °F
  • Ground poultry: 165 °F
  • Ground meats: 160 °F
  • Beef, pork, lamb, and veal (steaks, roasts and chops): 145 °F and allow to  rest at least 3 minutes.

You’ll also want to make sure that your hot food stays hot. Someone not ready  for that burger? Well, you can keep it hot by placing them on the side of the  grill and away from the coals.

4. Keep Food Chilled

Packing food into a cooler is the last thing you should do before leaving  your home for a barbecue. Have a thermometer in your cooler, and make sure  the temperature is always below 40°F. If you can, try to use one cooler for food  and one cooler for drinks. That way, you’ll be able to open up your drink cooler  as often as you like without exposing the food to warmer temperatures.

If it’s hot outside, make sure to keep your food in the cooler. Keep your  food out of the cooler for an hour at most. If you’re not sure how long a food  item has been sitting out in the sun, don’t take the risk. As the USDA says,  “when in doubt, throw it out!”



Not-So-Local Meat

by  Eric Steinman


Last month I was witness to an illegal pig slaughter. I should probably  clarify this statement on all fronts. This slaughter (or “harvest” as people who  raise livestock like to call it) was not done in a back alley, like a pit bull  fight, nor was it done to satisfy some collective bloodlust or desire to inflict  pain. The slaughter was done for a select group of butchers in training (and me  as the sole journalist), and expertly conducted by a highly skilled butcher, who  had been doing this for over 45 years. The pig was slaughtered on a farm and, to  my eyes, was slaughtered in a way that was about as humane and judicious as one  would hope for. The thing that made it illegal, or technically sub-legal, was  that there were no USDA inspectors present, nor was it done at a USDA-approved  slaughterhouse. All of which made this meat unsellable to the public (instead  the pig was going to be consumed by friends of the farm owners) and beyond  showing the mechanics of an animal slaughter, revealed that simply raising  livestock for slaughter is a complicated, and often costly, endeavor.

While many of us omnivores like to think our grass-fed, pasture-raised, meat  is hyper-local (the lucky ones among us can actually locate such farms on a map)  the fact is that while your meat may have been raised within a few miles of your  grill, it wasn’t likely slaughtered and processed anywhere close by. The fact  is, because of USDA standards (which most agree are very necessary) most  livestock intended for human consumption are trucked, sometimes hundreds of  miles away, to meet their maker, which raises the carbon footprint of the pig  and cattle and often causes undue stress.

While there used to be numerous slaughterhouses around the country within the  farm country where these animals are raised, those numbers have dwindled  greatly, leaving very few facilities to address the demand. According to an NPR report, over the past few decades slaughterhouse  consolidation has left small-scale producers scrambling. Just four corporations  slaughter about 80 percent of the cattle in the United States. Many facilities  now only process large numbers of animals at a time, and will not allow ranches  to bring in – and get back out – the same animals. This obviously impacts the  issue of quality control to a great degree.

While some in the slaughterhouse industry are doing their best to address the  problem, with small-scale slaughterhouses popping up in Washington state to  handle the backlog of animals, a great deal of creativity and funding is needed  to contend with this issue. The rise of mobile slaughterhouse units, which is  USDA subsidized and used for very small scale processing of animals on-farm,  shows promise. The cost is prohibitive (upwards of $300,000 a piece).

There is seemingly no real answer or solution to this mounting problem, and  it is a costly problem for struggling farmers who just want to keep their local  meat local and affordable. The hope is that consumer demand for local,  pasture-raised meat, with a clear point of origin, will drive innovation toward  a more sustainable model.

Do you know where your meat comes from?