General Safety Tips for Handling Meat and Poultry


Many different types of bacteria can grow on animal products. It’s important to safely handle and store all types of meat. However, many people find it confusing that different types of meat have different handling rules. It may be perfectly safe to eat one type of meat a week after it was prepared or freeze it to eat later. However, other types should be thrown away after only a few days or kept unfrozen.


Safe Shopping

  • Never choose packages that are torn or leaking.
  • Do not buy foods past “sell-by” or expiration dates.
  • Place raw meat and poultry in plastic bags so meat juices cannot cross-contaminate other foods.


Safe Storage of Foods

  • Place securely wrapped packages of raw meat, poultry, or fish in the meat drawer or coldest section of your refrigerator.
  • Cook or freeze fresh poultry, fish, ground meats, and organ meats within 2 days; other beef, veal, lamb, or pork within 3 to 5 days.
  • Keep meat and poultry in its package until just before using.
  • If freezing meat and poultry in its original package longer than 2 months, overwrap these packages with airtight heavy-duty foil, plastic wrap, freezer paper or plastic freezer bags.
  • Meat and poultry defrosted in the refrigerator may be refrozen before or after cooking. If thawed by other methods, cook before refreezing.


Thaw Food Safely

  • A refrigerator allows slow, safe thawing. Make sure thawing juices do not drip on other foods.
  • For faster thawing, place food in a leak-proof plastic bag and submerge in cold tap water.
  • If using a microwave to defrost, cook meat or poultry immediately after thawing.


Safe Food Preparation

  • Use separate cutting boards. You should also clean all cooking utensils after they come into contact with raw meat. Different utensils should be used to serve food than prepare it
  • Sanitize cutting boards often in a solution of 1 teaspoon chlorine bleach in 1 quart of water. Wash kitchen towels and cloths often in hot water in washing machine.
  • Don’t cross-contaminate. Keep raw meat, poultry, fish, and their juices away from other food. After cutting raw meats, wash hands, cutting board, knife, and counter tops with hot soapy water.
  • Marinate meat and poultry in a covered dish in the refrigerator.
  • Prepare the meat on a separate surface from other cooking materials. Germs spread easily. It’s particularly important to keep vegetables and other ingredients away from meat, especially if you are not cooking them together in the same dish.