This is a direct quote from the FDA website.
“Do not rinse raw meat and poultry before cooking. “Washing these foods makes it more likely for bacteria to spread to areas around the sink and countertops,”
I heard this the other day and thought no way. It must be an urban or internet legend. The “trust no one” cynic in me went straight to the FDA page and found out yep they did sure say this. The thoughts that race through my mind when I read this are somewhat frightening.
- In this era of we need smaller government we have gutted our food inspection process. We have so few government inspectors that they can no longer do the job the public assumes they are doing. Instead we are depending on the meat industry to police themselves. Think about all the food-borne illness that comes from meat claimed to be USDA Inspected. Asking a meat packer to inspect the meat they are processing is like asking a fox to guard a hen house. Not happening. The bottom line at the meat packing house is profit.
- The fact such a broad statement is made is makes me think that most of our meat is more likely than not to be a carrier of some kind of bacteria that could cause illness. So odds the your meat carries bacteria, and the meat processor and the USDA are depending on you to fully cook the meat without poking the surface to prevent illness. FYI – You supposed are too turn your steak with a tongs not a fork! That fork tine might take bacteria to the inside of your medium steak and make you sick. Yuck!
- The inside of a whole chicken has all sorts of nasties left inside them. I am not talking the giblet bag folks, but that junk attached inside the chest cavity. Commercial processing does a darn crummy job of finishing a chicken. I am always amazed at how much ‘guts’ are left inside whenever I see a store bought chicken. As someone who processes her own chickens I can tell you it takes just a few seconds with a hose to get the last of that connective and organ tissue caught there inside the bird out. I always wonder why they leave something ripe to grow things behind, but they do. It seems to me a prime bacteria growing place, that 30 seconds of spraying with water could get rid of. Gross, double gross!
- Look at your packing and you will almost find this universally, “Water added for processing.” Do you know what this means? Your store bought chicken is first of all cooled in a communal dunk tank, and from the sounds of it with their innards intact. When I am done fully dressing my chickens, I admit I throw them in a cold water bath, but only until I am done with the batch I am butchering. Then they are taken out and dry aged in the refrigerator. Based on personal experience I don’t get how they can absorb so much water unless left a long time in that communal water. What a wonderful place to spread bacteria, and get absorbed in to the meat/muscle tissue of the bird. Also because chicken is sold by the pound what a great way to inflate the price! Here is the explanation from the FDA page on this water added statement.
“Poultry is not injected with water, but some water is absorbed during cooling in a “chill-tank,” a large vat of cold, moving water. The chill-tank lowers the temperature of the slaughtered birds and their giblets (hearts, livers, gizzards, etc). During this water chilling process, turkeys and chickens will absorb some of the water, and this amount must be prominently declared on the label. It is not unusual for poultry to declare 8 to 12% retained water on the label.”
I know I have blogged on this before, but I do come back to this again because I think it is important for consumers to think about where their food comes from and how it is handled. I am lucky because we are able and willing to raise and butcher our own chickens; we know the woman who raises our lamb, know the rancher who raises our grass-fed beef, and lastly know Dan our butcher, who slaughters and cuts our meat just as we want it. At our house we are are willing to acknowledge and cook our meat based the fact that they are different than commercially raised chickens and feedlot cattle and lamb. Most folks don’t have these luxuries. Many of you have no choices on your meat; your store gives you no options; your budget does not allow you to be choosy. What I hoping this blog will do is allow you to be aware that your food isn’t guarantee to be safe just because it came from a store or has the USDA Inspected seal on it. Ask your store if they can make some options available to you including dry aging of your chicken. Seek out a relationship with a small farmer or person at your local farmer’s market. Lastly treat the meat in your home with great care to prevent cross contamination. There is no perfect situation and we all have to make choices regarding money and time, both of them in short supply. Carry on and make the best choices you can for your dinner plate.