Popular Myths About Meat and Poultry

Are you washing your chicken before cooking or gauging your hamburger’s doneness by color? Perhaps you should reconsider. Here are 8 of the most common consumer misconceptions about various types of meat and poultry.

Meat and Poultry as a Source of Protein

Guidelines for healthy eating include adding foods that are naturally nutrient-rich to your diet in the correct proportions. Protein rich foods help to build and repair muscle, provide energy and maintain optimum brain function.

Foods high in protein should comprise at least 10% (but not more than 35%) of your daily calorie intake to provide the protein, zinc, iron and various B-vitamins necessary for good health.

Because lean cuts of both red meat and poultry are good sources of dietary protein, we’ve compiled a list of some common consumer misconceptions about choosing and handling them safely.

Myths About Red Meat

1. You shouldn’t eat meat fats – they’re unhealthy.

Wrong. All dietary fats are healthy, as long as they are consumed in reasonable quantities. Fats provide energy, help in disease prevention, and play roles in growth. Fats also provide fat-soluble vitamins, like A, D, E and K. Fat consumption also provides the body with important fatty acids.

2. Plastic cutting boards are safer than wooden cutting boards.

Not true. Contrary to popular belief, plastic cutting boards are not impervious to bacteria. The truth is, pathogens can thrive on plastic boards. Many scientists have conducted thorough research on the safety of plastic cutting boards versus wooden. However, there is no definitive answer.

Regardless of what kind of board you use, keep it clean with hot, soapy water. Allow the board to air-dry or dry it with clean paper towels. You can sanitize frequently with a solution of 2 teaspoons of chlorine bleach in 1 quart of water. Rinse well. It’s advisable to have two cutting boards: one for raw flesh foods and one for all other foods. This reduces your chances of cross-contamination.

3. Pork is the other white meat.

False. Pork does not belong in the category of “white meat.” Pork simply contains less of a certain protein called myoglobin, which gives meat its red color. Beef contains more myoglobin than other types of meat. A meat’s processing and packaging can also affect its myoglobin content, thus changing its hue. Choose pork chops that are pinkish red and lightly marbled for best flavor and texture. Pale-colored pork chops are not necessarily leaner or more healthy.

4. Beef patties are safe to eat as long as the red meat turns pink or brown.

Not necessarily. A meat’s doneness or safety shouldn’t be judged by color alone. Raw ground beef oxidizes; consequently, pink meat will turn brown after refrigeration or being frozen.

Cooked ground beef can stay pink even when it’s been completely cooked. Since color can be unreliable, the USDA recommends using an instant digital meat thermometer. The safety point for cooked beef patties is 160°F.

Myths About Poultry

1. You should wash raw chicken before cooking it.

Bad idea. In fact, the USDA advises against it. When you wash raw poultry, the pathogens get on your hands and in the sink. Cooking poultry thoroughly deactivates these pathogens, so you should avoid handling raw food as much as possible. If you use a cutting board, sanitize it and the knife properly, and discard the packaging carefully.

2. Removing chicken skin and fat will help lower my fat intake.

Not really. If you do this, your chicken will be dry and flavorless. Cook your poultry with all its skin and fat, and it’s fine to eat some cooked skin. In fact, it can be healthful if it comes from a well-raised chicken.

3. Yellow chickens have more fat than paler chickens.

Not necessarily. A chicken’s pigment comes from the color of its feed. A chicken that eats feed containing xanthophyll will have more yellow hue than one that does not. Either way, chicken skin is not an accurate measure of its fat content, nutritional value, tenderness or flavor.

4. If the turkey label says “fresh,” then it’s fresh.

Not always the case. According to the USDA, any poultry stored below 0 degrees Fahrenheit is considered “frozen” and above 26 degrees Fahrenheit is considered “fresh.” However, a turkey at this temperature is neither “frozen” nor “fresh.”