Frequently Asked Questions

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Are primal or sub primal cuts of meat ever sold directly to the consumer.

Yes, some retail markets offer sub primal cuts of meat which are vacuum packaged at the processing plant and shipped refrigerated to the retailer.  Some primal cuts may also be offered during special sales by the retail market.

Can ham labeled “fully cooked” really be eaten safely without more cooking?

Yes.  The term “fully cooked’ means that the ham has been cooked in the meat processor’s oven and may be eaten as it comes from the package.  To serve warm, “fully cooked” hams need only be heated to an internal temperature of 140F.

Can I age beef in my own refrigerator

No, aging beef requires controlled temperature and humidity which is not available in the average home refrigerator.

Can money be saved by the consumer when buying meat by the side or quarter

The advantages must be worked out by the individual consumer.  The potential savings will depend on the cost per pound of the edible cuts of meat after trimming, wrapping and adding the cost of energy used for freezing rather than the original cost per pound.  Keep in mind that ground meat, stew meat and meat for braising will cost the same price per pound as roasts, steaks and chops.

Does all beef have to have a government grade stamped on it?

No. Grading is voluntary, except where local ordinances require it.

How can I recognize high quality lamb?

Look for meat that is fine textured, firm and lean.  In color, the meat should be pink and the cross section of bone red, moist and porous.  The fat should be firm, white and not too thick.

How can the quality of meat be judged when shopping in a neighborhood store?

The color of meat can be helpful when judging quality. 

Beef is bright red; veal, grayish pink; and pork, grayish pink to delicate rose. 

Spring lamb that has been grass fed tends to be light pink while those that have been grain fed may be a darker pink.  Fat on grain fed beef is a creamy white. 

In addition, the neighborhood store maintains quality standards for its meat supply so that satisfied customers will continue to purchase meat at the store.

How do I select pork cuts

When selecting a cut of fresh pork, you’ll want to consider several factors:
The degree of leanness. Modern-day production (or “farming methods”) have reduced pork’s fat content. Refer to the top chart on this page to see how pork compares to other common meats in terms of fat, calories and cholesterol


How you’ll cook it. If time is limited, you’ll want to select a smaller cut, like pork chops or stir-fry strips, which cooks quickly. If you’re entertaining and have several other dishes to prepare, you may want to choose a roast, which can be put in the oven and requires very little attention.

Number of people to be served. The “average” serving size for pork is 3 ounces of cooked meat. Start with 4 ounces of boneless, raw pork to yield 3 ounces cooked. A 3-ounce cooked serving is about the size of a deck of cards.

Cost. To get the most for your money, take the time to figure out the cost per serving. This is a better way to measure the value of your selection than cost per pound. For example, some boneless cuts may seem more expensive, but actually are a better buy because you are not paying for the bone. To determine cost per serving, use this formula:

Cost per serving= Cost per pound divided by # of servings per pound

Check out these other great grilling suggestions! There is more to grilling than just a hot fire. Proper planning is the key to any great meal. Use these tips for a safe and flavorful meal.

How is the aging of meat done?

The three most widely used methods of aging are:

Dry aging where the meat is held at temperatures from 34″ to 38OF for 10 days to six weeks in rooms with controlled humidity

Fast aging where the meat is held at a much higher temperature, about 70OF for two days or less with controlled humidity and ultraviolet lights used to reduce microbial population
and Vacuum packaging in moisture-vapor-proof film that protects the meat from the time it is fabricated until it reaches the customer.  A new method of tenderizing meat, electrical stimulation, is being used by some processors.

How is the cost per serving figured?

Divide the cost per pound of the meat you are buying by the number of servings you expect to get.

How long can meats cooked at home be kept?

Meats cooked at home, wrapped tightly and refrigerated soon after cooking, will have maximum flavor quality if used within 3 to 4 days

How long does it take to age the meat sold in the retail markets?

 Most meat sold in retail markets is aged during the normal process of moving fresh meat from packer to retailer to consumer to kitchen range – about 6 to 10 days. 

This is long enough for considerable tenderizing to take place. 

For consumers who prefer “aged” meat, however, some retailers will hold ribs and loins of beef for longer periods of time.

How should a ham that has no label be cooked?

to be safe assume that an unlabeled ham is the “cook before-eating” type and heat it to an internal temperature of 160F before serving.

I hear pork has changed a lot in recent years

Modern pork is 25 percent leaner and has retained its desirable texture, flavor and juiciness.

I need charcoal grill pork advice

Start a charcoal fire about 30 minutes before you’re ready to cook. When ready, the coals will be covered with gray ash. Preheat gas grill for 15 minutes.

Flavor Tip – Quick flavor additions can be added to pork towards the end of grilling. Smoky barbecue sauce doctored with a few tablespoons of peach or apricot jam creates a sweet-smoky finish to a pork chop. Or glaze pork burgers with a mixture of applesauce, Dijon mustard and horseradish.

Leftover Tip – When planning next day leftovers, refrigerate your food promptly. Don’t leave perishable foods at room temperature for longer than 2 hours

Safety Tip – Be sure vents are open when you light the grill and don’t use lighter fluid on an already-lit fire.

I want to know about spices for meat

The world of seasoning — subtle, fiery, outrageous, sublime — is yours for exploring. The intrepid seasoner who throws in a pinch of this and a pinch of that with reasoned abandon will discover some exciting new tastes. 

For the less courageous, here are some combinations that will add international flavoring to your cooking:

American style …barbecue sauce
Italian style… tomatoes, oregano, garlic, basil
Mexican style…cilantro, cumin, oregano, garlic, chilies
Greek style… lemon, garlic, rosemary, mint, oregano
French style… white wine, tarragon, thyme, mustard
Russian style… low-fat sour cream, paprika, onion
Oriental style… ginger, sesame seeds, soy sauce, garlic
Indonesian style… peanut, lime, ginger
Caribbean style… lime, rum, allspice, ginger, garlic
Indian style… curry powder, garlic, chili powder, cinnamon

Is pork a popular meat?

Pork is the No. 1 meat in the world because it is the most versatile.
There’s a world of opportunities for cooking with pork. Pork
can be used in virtually any ethnic meat dish — pork strips are a favorite in Chinese and Thai stir-fry dishes; ground pork goes great in Mexican tacos, nachos — or as a twist on a traditional Italian spaghetti sauce; and pork chops can be seasoned with Caribbean spices, Mediterranean seasonings or Provence herb mixtures.

Is there a difference between ground beef and hamburger?

Although many consumers use the terms interchangeably, GROUND BEEF, according to the nationwide Uniform Retail Meat Identity Standards Code, must be pure beef, ground only from skeletal meat (beef muscle attached to the skeleton) with no variety meats, other meats or ingredients added.  Properly, the term hamburger describes the meat when it is cooked.

Is USDA inspection a guide to quality?

 No, the USDA Inspection stamp is only a guide to wholesomeness.

Must canned hams be refrigerated?

Check instructions on the can label to determine if it is necessary to refrigerate the canned ham.  Canned hams labeled “Perishable – Keep Under Refrigeration” have been pasteurized during processing and like pasteurized milk must be kept at refrigerator temperature before and after opening.
Some small cans of ham have been brought to a higher temperature (sterilized) during processing and so may be stored without refrigeration, the same as other canned foods.

My mom says pork needs to be well done

Most Americans overcook pork, but it doesn’t have to be overcooked to be safe. Pork is leaner now and since there is less fat, overcooking will cause dryness.

According to the new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) guidelines, pork chops, roasts and tenderloins can be safely cooked to medium rare at a final internal cooked temperature of 145°Fahrenheit as measured by a food thermometer, followed by a three-minute rest time. When cooking a roast, we recommend letting it rest 15 to 20 minutes before slicing to allow juices to be reabsorbed and distributed throughout the roast.
Ground Pork should be cooked to a minimum 165F

Should fresh meat pre-packaged be unwrapped before placing in refrigerator

Pre-packaged and store wrapped meat may be placed in the refrigerator in the original wrapper if the meat is to be used within the recommended storage time (see storage chart). 

By leaving meat in the original wrapper, bacteria growth can be limited by avoiding rehandling of the meat’s surface.

suggestions for seasoning pork dishes?

Pork has a great flavor that goes well with a multitude of seasonings — use rubs, marinades or sauces to top your favorite cuts.

Rubs are mixtures of your favorite herbs and spices rubbed right onto the surface of the
meat — or season with salt and pepper, garlic or lemon pepper. Check out these racy
rubs!
Marinades are another way to bring out the flavor in pork. Create a marinade out of a mixture of your favorite spices, an oil and an acid component like fruit juice. 

Marinate cuts in a freezer bag or glass container in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, or up to three days, so the flavor can be absorbed — make sure to discard the marinade before you prepare the meat. 

See these marvelous marinade ideas!
Sauces like creamy mushroom and hot-and-spicy, or low-fat sauces like salsa or fruit chutney, also complement the great taste of pork.

What can I do to prevent pork from drying out while cooking?

Basting the cuts while grilling or broiling will prevent drying out the surface — the liquid can be meat drippings, fruit juice or a spicy
sauce. Be sure to discard unused marinade. Remember that pork doesn’t need to cook too long because it is so lean. For tender,
juicy pork, cook to 160° F., leaving a slight blush of pink in the center.

What do the terms short fed and long fed mean?

Short fed cattle are those that are brought from the range into the feedlot at heavier weights (750 to 850 pounds) and kept there for approximately 90 to 130 days before marketing.  Usually these cattle will have better curability and less tendency to have excessive fat covering. 
The fat will have a desirable white color.  Long fed cattle refers to grain fed cattle that have been in the feedlot for more than 130 days.

What does the term “water added” on the ham label mean?

Hams that return to their original weight are labeled “ham.”
However, when ham returns to within 10 percent over the original weight, it is labeled “ham, water added”.
The added moisture, usually injected saline solution,  cannot exceed 10 percent of the weight of the fresh uncured ham.
The same labeling regulation applies to picnic shoulders.

What happens to the other government grades of beef?

About 5 percent of the beef that is graded in the United States is Prime.  Of this, only a small percentage is sold at retail; the rest is sold to restaurants.  Lower grades Standard through Canner, though wholesome and nutritious – do not have the same tenderness and finish (fat).  Most lower graded beef is used in ground beef or in processed meats.

What is a Boston butt?

Boston butt is the name sometimes used for part of the shoulder of pork.
It may be sold as bone-in or boneless roast or steak. 
The boneless Boston shoulder is also cured and smoked by meat processors who use
their brand name for identification.

What is a picnic ham?

Technically, there is no such thing as a picnic ham. 
Ham is the hind leg of a hog and the picnic, often incorrectly called ham, comes from the pork shoulder. 
Both may be sold as fresh pork roasts or cured and smoked.

What is kobe beef?

Actually there’s no such thing as Kobe beef, the real name is Tajima beef, Kobe is the shipping point for beef in Japan.

Kobe is the capital of the ancient province of Tajima, now named Hyogo Prefecture.

This beef, top quality,  comes from an ancient stock of cattle called “kuroge Wagyu” (black haired Japanese cattle).

Today they are raised on a couple of hundred small farms, most of which pasture fewer than five cows, and the largest of which run only 10 to 15.

Each animal is pampered to the max, their diets are strictly controlled and during the final fattening process, cattle are fed hefty quantities of sake and beer mash.

What is meant by the term processed meat?

Processed meat is a broad term used to identify meat that has been changed by cooking, curing, canning, drying or freezing or a combination of these processes.

Meats that are commonly described as processed are sausages, luncheon meats, hams, bacon and franks/wieners.
Some are fully cooked and can be served as they come from the store, and some require heating according to label directions.

What is rack of lamb?

The rack is the un split primal rib (called the hotel rack) of the carcass which includes ribs 6 through 12.  The rack is split to make two lamb rib roasts.

What is the difference between a primal and sub primal cut of meat?

 A primal cut (also known as a wholesale cut) is the whole chuck or shoulder, rib, whole loin or whole round.  When the primal cut is divided into smaller sections, usually by sectioning out whole muscles, sub primals result.
Examples of sub primal cuts of beef are the top round, whole tenderloin and rib eye.

What is the difference between American and New Zealand lamb?

New Zealand lamb is generally smaller than that grown in the United States. 

It is always marketed frozen in the U.S..

What is the meaning of the term grass fed beef ?

Grass fed beef is meat from cattle that have remained on the range without being brought to the feedlot for finishing. 

Very often the fat covering will have a dark or yellow cast resulting from the carotene (vitamin A) in grass.
This color tends to disappear from animals that are brought from the range to the feedlots for short or long feeding.

What USDA grades of beef are generally found in local meat markets?

Most of the USDA graded beef in our supermarkets is Select or Choice

What’s the best way to prepare different pork cuts?

Stewing is best for smaller pieces, such as shoulder cubes
Braising for large or small cuts, but traditionally less-tender cuts
Sauteing for thin, small pork cuts such as thin chops, pounded cutlets, thin strips, ground pork
Panbroiling for small cuts one-inch thick or less — chops, tenderloin medallions, ham slices, bacon and ground pork patties
Broiling/Grilling for chops at least one-inch thick, ribs and pork patties
Roasting for large pork cuts — loin roasts, shoulder roasts, ham, leg roasts

What’s the difference between spareribs, back ribs and country-style ribs?

Spareribs come from the underbelly or side of the pig. Although they have the least meat per bone, spareribs are a favorite among barbecue fans.
Pork Back Ribs, cut from the blade and center section of the pork loin, contain rib bones and the “finger meat” between the ribs.
Country-style Ribs are the meatiest variety of pork ribs; you’ll need a knife and fork to eat them properly.

What’s the difference between traditional American bacon and Canadian-style bacon?

Canadian-style bacon is made from cured pork loin — with the fat trimmed off, it is a lean, low-calorie choice — only 70 calories per serving and 3 grams of fat, the taste and texture is similar to ham.
Traditional bacon comes in a number of varieties including regular sliced, thin sliced and thick or country-style sliced from the pork belly.
It is much fatter than Canadian style bacon.
A one-ounce serving of Canadian bacon has about 50 calories and 2g of fat, compared to regular bacon, which has about 165 calories and 14g of fat per ounce

Which is the better buy … sides, quarters or sub primal cuts?

This depends on the price per pound of each.    However, keep in mind that sub primal cuts are usually boneless and have been trimmed.  Although the price per pound for the sub primal may be higher, the cost per serving for a specific cut may be less.

Why do porterhouse, T-bone and sirloin steaks cost more than round steaks?

The cuts mentioned, whether beef, pork, lamb or veal, are the more tender cuts and are usually in greater demand. 

As they are a smaller percentage of the carcass, the old rule of supply and demand increases their cost.

Why do the surfaces of the sub primal cuts of beef in the vacuum packages look so dark?

This is due to the elimination of air in the package.  As soon as the wrapper is removed and beef is cut, it will change to its normal bright red color.

Why is some meat aged? Where is it sold?

 The major purpose of aging is to develop additional tenderness and a characteristic flavor.  Usually only ribs and loins of high quality beef and lamb are aged, and these are generally sold to restaurants