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Meat Storage & Safety Guide

Bacteria is all around us. Bacteria is in the air we breathe, it lives in our bodies, and it is in the food we eat. There are good and bad bacteria, but the type of bacteria that lives on animal products can be dangerous. This is why it's imperative to know how to safely handle and store animal products. 

Navigating the guidelines set for storing meat can be difficult. You can eat some meat products one week after it was cooked or freeze it till a later date. Other foods may be discarded after a few days. 

A safe and healthy kitchen is determined by knowledge of safe cooking and storage procedures. Read on to find out how to properly store your meat to avoid becoming sick. 

What is Bacteria? 

Bacteria are single-celled microbes. They do not have a nucleus and membrane-bound organelles. Bacteria are a few micrometers in length and they come in various shapes. Bacteria can be shaped like a spiral, sphere or rod.

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Where Did Bacteria Originate?

Bacteria have lived on this planet for millions of years. They were one of the first organisms on this planet.  Bateria have been discovered in fossils from the Devonian Period (419.2 to 358.9 million years ago) and Precambrian time (3.5 billion years ago).  

What Types Of Bacteria Can be Found on Meat?  

Fresh meat has a large amount of water. These conditions are optimal for bacteria to rapidly multiply. Beef, pork, and chicken naturally have bacteria in their intestines. 


Typically E.coli is the most common infective bacteria discovered in beef. Although this pathogen is rare, it can cause the intestinal lining to be damaged. Other pathogens found in beef include Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella, and Listeria monocytogenes. These microbes can be killed through cooking. 

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The most frequent pathogens that occur in pork are S. aureus. Y. enterocolitica, E.coli, and Salmonella. Contaminants found in pork can be neutralized by cooking to an internal temperature of 145 ℉.  


Chicken is most commonly infected with S. aureus, L monocytogenes, E.coli, Campylobacter jejuni, and Salmonella. Cook chicken to an internal temperature of 165 ℉  to neutralize the contaminants. 

Food Storage

Raw food and cooked food should never be stored on the same shelf in the refrigerator, they should be kept separate. Bacteria found in raw food can infect cold cooked food. If the food is not heated thoroughly bacteria spores can rapidly reproduce to unhealthy habits. 

Store raw food in sealed containers at the bottom of the refrigerator. Store cooked foods above raw foods to prevent meat juices from trickling onto cooked foods.

Meat Safety Guidelines

  • Refrigerate perishable food within a two-hour time frame. 
  • Monitor the temperature of your refrigerator and freezer using an appliance thermometer. The refrigerator should be below or at 40 F and the freezer at or below 0 F to avoid the temperature danger zone. Bacteria reproduce rapidly at temperatures between 40 °F - 140 °F, keeping meat below or above this temperature makes it safe to eat. 
  • Freeze or cook fresh fish, poultry, ground meats within two days. Freeze or cook pork, beef, lamb, or veal within 3-5 days. 
  • Meat, poultry, and other perishable food should be wrapped or sealed in an airtight container to keep it fresh and make sure that no meat juices from spilling onto other foods. 

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How to Properly Freeze Meat

Place meats into the refrigerator or freezer immediately. To preserve the quality of meat or poultry leave it in its original packaging. Wrap the container with freezer-safe foil and plastic wrap and place it in the freezer. 

How To Properly Thaw Meat 

Meat can be thawed in the refrigerator, using cold water, or in the microwave. Food thawed in the fridge defrost slowly and safely. If you choose to thaw meat in the refrigerator make sure the juices do not drip onto other foods. 

Using cold water can speed up the thawing process. Place frozen food in a non-porous plastic bag. Immerse the bag in cold water and replace the water every 30 minutes. Cook right away after the meat has been thawed. 

If you are using the microwave to defrost meat cook it immediately after removing it from the microwave.

After food has already been thawed do not refreeze it. Pathogenic bacteria can develop in the meat while it thaws. Freezing food a second time can have higher levels of bacteria which can cause food poisoning. 

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To prepare food, wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after touching food.  If marinating meat and poultry use a covered dish and place it in the fridge. 

Do not cross-contaminate. Keep raw meat such as poultry, beef, fish, and their dangerous juices away from other foods. Wash your cutting boards, knife, and kitchen counter spaces with hot sudsy water. Sanitize cutting boards and knives using a solution of 1 tablespoon of non aromatic chlorine bleach to 1 gallon of water. 

How to Properly Cook Meat 

The only way to know if your meat is cooked is to use a meat thermometer. Cook lamb, beef, lamb, pork, veal steaks, roasts, and chops to an internal temperature of 145 ℉. For an extra layer of security and flavour let your meat rest for 3 minutes before carving and serving. 

Cook ground pork, beef, veal, and lamb at an internal temperature to an internal temperature of 160 ℉. Poultry should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 ℉.

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How to Store Cooked Food

Most people adore leftovers because it means they can skip cooking dinner the next night and relax. However, there are some guidelines that you should follow. 

Food set out at room temperature for more than two hours should be thrown out. If the food has not been left out for more than two hours, should be put into shallow containers and placed in the fridge or freezer to enable rapid cooling. 

Cooked leftovers should be used in three to four days and should be reheated at an internal temperature of 165 ℉. 

Take Away 

Safely storing your meat is essential to preventing food poisoning. If you ever question whether a food is still good or not throw it out.