Keeping Your Meat Safe

Reviewed by Eleese Cunningham, RDN
cutting raw meat

Wavebreakermedia Ltd/Wavebreaker Media/Thinkstock

More and more Americans are becoming concerned about ensuring the food they eat is safe. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics wants consumers to know that they can take an active role in safeguarding their food by practicing proper food-handling procedures. Below are tips that will help you get your meat safely from the grocery aisle to the kitchen table.


  • Always look for the Safe Food Handling label on packages
  • The label indicates that the meat has been processed safely and will give you tips for proper food handling and cooking
  • Make sure the meat is tightly wrapped
  • Pick up the meat last and ask to have it bagged separately from other groceries


  • Always handle meats with clean, dry hands
  • Store meat in the coldest part of the refrigerator or in the refrigerator's meat bin
  • Use fresh, raw meats stored in the refrigerator within 3 to 4 days of purchase
  • Throw away ground meats, sausage and organ meats after 2 days
  • Freeze meats in freezer-safe wrap at 0°F
  • Cooked meats should be eaten or frozen within 3 to 4 days


  • Wash hands thoroughly for 20 seconds before, during and after handling raw meat
  • Use two separate cutting boards to avoid cross-contamination
  • Use one for raw meats and the other for fruits and vegetables
  • Color-coded cutting boards can help you remember which is which
  • Defrost meats in the refrigerator or in the microwave by using the defrost setting — never on the counter
  • Cook meat that has been thawed in the microwave immediately
  • Use a food thermometer to cook to proper temperatures
  • Cook ground meats to 160°F
  • Beef, veal and lamb should reach 145°F
  • Cook pork to 145°F
  • Reheat leftovers to 165°F
  • Always marinate in the refrigerator
  • If you want to re-use marinade that has touched raw meat, always bring it to a boil first
  • Cooked meats should not be left unrefrigerated for more than two hours

Find an Expert

Need serious help making a plan? The nutrition experts in our professional membership are ready to help you create the change to improve your life.

Search Now