How do I protect myself as a consumer from bad meat? Many people ask themselves this question. The pathogens that can make people ill cannot be smelled, tasted or detected by the eyes. The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment provides tips on what consumers should already pay attention to when shopping.
Colour is a characteristic of freshness
As soon as an animal is slaughtered, pathogens romp on every piece of meat. These come from animal skin or splash water. But only with time do the germs multiply in such a way that the flesh spoils. One can tell whether the goods are fresh by the colour, among other things. This should not be greyish for any kind of meat. Fresh pork is light to delicate pinkish, in beef the colour is light to dark red and in poultry light pink. Game should be dark red to dark brown.
Good meat does not lose juice in the package
If the meat smells neutral or mild, this is a sign of its freshness. Even a slightly acidic smell is not a bad sign. However, if the smell becomes sweet or unpleasant, the meat belongs in the garbage. Moreover, no juice should have escaped. Fresh, high-quality meat does not lose much water and therefore does not lie in a wet pack. The consistency also tells you how fresh the meat is: press your finger on the product and see if a pressure point remains visible. If it seems to have an almost spongy consistency, and if the greasy looking surface is covered with pressure marks, the meat cannot be very fresh.
Even in the refrigerator it can be too warm
The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) explains how quickly meat gets bad depends on the variety. Beef, for example, has a longer shelf life than pork or poultry. This is due to the fact that beef depends longer after slaughtering. At temperatures between zero and four degrees Celsius, beef can be kept for three to four days, veal or pork for two to three days, whereas poultry only lasts for one to two days. In normal refrigerators, however, it only gets four degrees Celsius cold at the coolest point. Therefore, meat is best stored in the lowest refrigerator compartment – above the vegetable drawer. It’s the coldest place. It is therefore better to use the meat before the expiry date.
Hack and goulash spoil faster
Meat spoils particularly quickly if the protective muscle shell is destroyed – this is the case with minced meat or goulash, for example. Fresh from the butcher, minced meat should still be consumed on the same day. In addition, you should ask the seller whether the meat was freshly turned through the meat grinder, the BfR recommends. It’s even better if you can watch. Minced meat from the supermarket is usually a bit longer lasting. But beware of the shelf life expiration date (MHD) on the package: it is often necessary to store at zero to two degrees Celsius.
Caution with packaged goods
Attention must also be paid to packed meat from the supermarket, which bears the label “packed in a protective atmosphere”. This meat was treated with a gas mixture with a high oxygen content. The oxygen ensures that the meat remains red and appears fresh – but in fact it becomes rancid, less juicy and tender more quickly. This has been discovered by the Foodwatch consumer protection organisation. Manufacturers, on the other hand, explain that the oxygen mixture suppresses the bacterial flora on the meat, thus protecting it from spoilage. Vacuuming is a better method of keeping fresh meat a little longer. In principle, you should ensure that refrigerators are only filled up to the specified mark.
Goods stored in front of it are not sufficiently cooled. If you buy meat from the butcher, you should pay attention to the presentation of the offered goods. Those who silt here don’t take hygiene very seriously behind closed doors.
Deep-frozen meat can be kept for up to 18 months
If you want to keep meat for more than a few days, you have to freeze it. However, the meat should be frozen as soon as possible after purchase. The fewer germs that can settle on the meat before freezing, the better. According to the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, pork takes six to nine months at temperatures around minus 18°Celsius, and beef can even be stored for nine to 18 months. The fatter the meat, the shorter its shelf life. Minced meat must be consumed after three to four months. Attention: Bacterial spores also survive freezing temperatures. As soon as the meat is thawed, it can reproduce again. Therefore, thawed meat should be prepared as soon as possible.
Cooking does not prolong shelf life
Attention: Cooking does not necessarily make the meat more durable. If there’s anything left over from the schnitzel, put it in the fridge as soon as possible. Cooked meat should be kept for a maximum of one to two days. In order to make sure that germs are killed, the meat should not only be warmed up but heated to 70 degrees Celsius for at least two minutes.