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Meat & Poultry Products: Frequently Asked Questions

How can I be sure my roast has been thoroughly cooked?

Consumers can be sure their meat products are cooked thoroughly by using a meat thermometer. Roasts cooked to medium doneness should be cooked to 160 �F; 170 �F for well done. List of proper cooking temperatures. 

How do custom-exempt plants differ from inspected facilities?

State inspectors are responsible for the inspection of the facility and procedure at custom-exempt plants; however, the owner of the carcass assumes the responsibility for the safety of the meat. Each animal processed under a custom exemption is not individually inspected. Custom-exempt plants slaughter only privately owned animals that will be served in this owner's household and to their non-paying guests. Meat and poultry products derived from custom-exempt plants may not be sold.

State-inspected plants are different than custom-exempt plants for two reasons. First, inspectors are responsible for the safety and cleanliness of the facility, procedure and product. Second, meat and poultry may be sold within the state of Indiana from these establishments. Inspectors perform an ante-mortem (before slaughter) and post-mortem (after slaughter) inspection of all animals to ensure the safety of the product.

Are all foods required to have a "use by" or "sell by" date?

Except for infant formula and some baby food, product dating is not required by federal regulations. However, if a calendar date is used, it must express both the month and day of the month (and the year, in the case of shelf-stable and frozen products). If a calendar date is shown, immediately adjacent to the date must be a phrase explaining the meaning of that date such as "sell by" or "use before."

No uniform or universally accepted system is used for food dating in the United States. Although dating of some foods is required by more than 20 states, some type of open date is common in some areas of the country, while almost no food is dated in other areas.

Can people get foot-and-mouth disease?

Humans are not susceptible to foot-and-mouth disease. The only susceptible species are cloven-hoofed animals; however, the United States hasn't had a case of foot-and-mouth disease since 1929.

How much water is added to ground beef?

None, it is against the law to add water to ground beef.

Is all meat and poultry graded?

The inspection and grading of meat and poultry are two separate programs within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Inspection for wholesomeness is mandatory and is paid by tax dollars. Grading for quality is voluntary, and the service is requested and paid for by meat and poultry producers/processors.

After the meat and poultry are inspected for wholesomeness, producers and processors may request to have the products graded for quality by a federal grader. The USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service is the agency responsible for grading meat and poultry. Those who request grading must pay for the service. Grading for quality means evaluation of traits related to tenderness, juiciness, and flavor of meat; and, for poultry, a normal shape that is fully fleshed and meaty and free of defects.

USDA grades are based on nationally uniform federal standards of quality. So, no matter where or when a consumer purchases graded meat or poultry, it must have met the same grade criteria. The grade is stamped on the carcass or side of beef and is usually not visible on retail cuts. However, retail packages of beef, as well as poultry, will show the grade mark if products have been graded.

The grade symbol and wording are no longer copyrighted; however, according to the Truth in Labeling Law, misleading or misrepresenting the shield or wording is illegal.

Do processors put coloring in ground sirloin?

It's unlawful to put anything in ground beef. If the package says ground sirloin, the beef contained in the package was made from the sirloin.

How long can I keep meat in my freezer?

Six months to one year for best quality. The product is still safe to eat after a year, but quality will gradually deteriorate. Meat and Poultry storage guide.

What types of meat are inspected?

Beef, pork, lamb, goat, farm-raised deer and elk, rabbits (voluntary inspection), ratites (ostrich, rhea, emu,etc.) and poultry.

What is the difference between federally and state-inspected meat?

Federally inspected meat can be sold across the state line (interstate) and internationally. State-inspected facilities that are in the Cooperative Interstate Shipping program can sell meat and poultry products across state lines (interstate). All other state-inspected facilities can only sell meat and poultry products within Indiana (intrastate). By federal law, state inspection standards must be "equal to" federal standards.