How to Safely Buy, Store and Cook Meat

Meat safety
Take an active role in safeguarding the meat you eat. Review the following tips to get your meat safely from the supermarket to the kitchen table.


  • Look for the Safe Food Handling label on packages. This label means the meat has undergone safe processing and includes handling and cooking tips.
  • Make sure meat is tightly wrapped and cold to the touch.
  • Pick your meat up last and ask to have it bagged separately from other groceries.


  • Store meat in the coldest part of the refrigerator or in the refrigerator's meat bin.
  • Use fresh, raw meat stored in the refrigerator within three to four days of purchase.
  • Throw away ground meat, sausage and organ meat after two days.
  • If freezing meat, store in freezer-safe wrap in a freezer set at or below 0°F.
  • Eat or freeze cooked meat within three to four days.


  • Handle meat with clean, dry hands. Wash your hands thoroughly for 20 seconds before, during and after handling raw meat.
  • Use two separate cutting boards: one for raw meat and another for fruits and vegetables. This helps prevent cross-contamination. Color-coded cutting boards are helpful.
  • Defrost meat in the refrigerator or in the microwave by using the defrost setting. Never defrost meat on the counter. If thawing in the microwave, cook immediately, because some areas may become warm and begin to cook during microwaving.
  • Do not re-freeze thawed meat.
  • Marinate meat in the refrigerator.


  • Use a food thermometer to cook to proper temperatures. Learn more about food thermometers at
  • Proper cooking temperatures kill harmful bacteria present in food. Use the following quick internal temperature guide:
    • Ground meat: 160°F
    • Beef, pork, veal and lamb: 145°F (allow to rest for 3 minutes before carving or consuming)
    • Leftovers: 165°F
  • Before re-using marinade that has touched raw meat, bring it to a boil.
  • Do not leave cooked meat out of refrigeration for more than two hours.
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