Chicken from farm to table dry itchy patches on skin

dry itchy patches on skin

What’s for dinner tonight? There’s a good chance it’s chicken – now the number one species consumed by Americans. Interest in the safe handling and cooking of chicken is reflected in the thousands of calls to the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline. The following information answers many of the questions these callers have asked about chicken. To begin, let us define the types of chickens that you may find at your local grocery story:

All chickens found in retail stores are either inspected by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) or by State programs which have standards equivalent to the Federal government. Each chicken and its internal organs are inspected for signs of disease. The "Inspected for wholesomeness by the U.S. Department of Agriculture" seal indicates that the product was produced in compliance with Federal regulations, including those that prohibit carcasses and parts of carcasses with evidence of disease.

USDA requires a "pack date" or code date for poultry products and thermally processed, commercially sterile products, (commonly referred to as canned products were the containers can be flexible, such as pouches, or semi-rigid, as in lunch bowls) to help identify product lots and facilitate trace-back activities in the event of an outbreak of foodborne illness. For other poultry products under the jurisdiction of FSIS, dates may be voluntarily applied, provided they are labeled in a manner that is truthful and not misleading and in compliance with FSIS regulations.

The use-by date is for quality assurance; after the date, peak quality begins to lessen, but the product may still be used. It’s always best to buy a product before the date expires. If a use-by date expires while the chicken is frozen, the food can still be used because foods kept frozen continuously are safe indefinitely. The quality of the poultry may diminish the longer it is frozen.

Antibiotics may be used to prevent disease and increase feed efficiency. Before the bird can be slaughtered, a "withdrawal" period is required from the time antibiotics are administered. FSIS randomly samples poultry at slaughter and tests for residues to make sure levels are not above the tolerance level at the time of slaughter. Data from this monitoring program have shown a very low percentage of residue violations.

Bacteria must be ingested to cause foodborne illness. However, raw poultry must be handled carefully to prevent cross-contamination. This can occur if raw poultry or its juices come in contact with cooked food or foods that will be eaten raw, such as salad. An example of this is using a cutting board to chop raw chicken and then using the same board to chop tomatoes without washing the board first.

Washing raw poultry before cooking is not recommended because bacteria in raw meat and poultry juices can be spread to other foods, utensils, and surfaces. This is called cross-contamination. The results of a recent USDA observational study showed how easy bacteria can be spread when surfaces are not effectively cleaned and sanitized after washing poultry.

Many people think the pink liquid in packaged fresh chicken is blood; however, it is mostly water that was absorbed by the chicken during the chilling process. Blood is removed from poultry during slaughter and only a small amount remains in the muscle tissue. An improperly bled chicken has cherry red skin and is condemned by FSIS inspection personnel at the plant.

• Fresh Chicken: Chicken is kept cold during distribution to retail stores to prevent the growth of bacteria and to increase its shelf life. Chicken should feel cold to the touch when purchased. Select fresh chicken just before checking out at the register. Put packages of chicken in disposable plastic bags (if available) to contain any leakage that could cross-contaminate cooked foods or produce in the grocery cart or shopping bags. Make the grocery store your last stop before going home.

Chicken may be frozen in its original packaging or repackaged. If you plan to freeze chicken longer than 2 months, overwrap the porous store plastic packages with airtight heavy-duty foil, plastic wrap, or freezer paper, or place the package inside a freezer bag. Use these materials or airtight freezer containers to freeze the chicken from opened packages or repackage family packs of chicken into smaller amounts.

• Ready-Prepared Chicken: When purchasing fully cooked rotisserie or fast food chicken, be sure to eat or refrigerate it within 2 hours. If is hot at the time of purchase and won’t be used within 2 hours, cut it into several pieces and refrigerate in shallow, covered containers. Eat within 3 to 4 days, either cold or reheated to 165°F. It is safe to freeze ready-prepared chicken. For best quality, flavor, and texture, use it within 4 months.

FSIS recommends three ways to thaw chicken: in the refrigerator, in cold water, and in the microwave. Never thaw chicken on the counter or in other locations. It’s best to plan ahead for slow, safe thawing in the refrigerator. Boneless chicken breasts, bone-in parts, and whole chickens may take 1 to 2 days or longer to thaw. Once the raw chicken thaws, it can be kept in the refrigerator an additional day or two before cooking. During this time, if chicken thawed in the refrigerator is not used, it can safely be refrozen without cooking it first.

dry itchy patches on skin

Chicken may be thawed in cold water in its airtight packaging or in a leak-proof bag. Submerge the bird or cut-up parts in cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes to be sure it stays cold. A whole (3- to 4-pound) broiler-fryer or package of parts should thaw in 2 to 3 hours. A 1-pound package of boneless breasts will thaw in an hour or less. Cook immediately after thawing.

Chicken that was thawed in the microwave should be cooked immediately after thawing because some areas of the food may become warm and begin to cook during microwaving. Holding partially cooked food is not recommended because any bacteria present wouldn’t have been destroyed. Foods defrosted in the microwave or by the cold-water method should be cooked before refreezing.

• The USDA recommends cooking whole poultry to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165°F as measured using a food thermometer. Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. When cooking pieces, breasts, drumsticks, thighs, and wings should be cooked until they reach a safe minimum internal temperature of 165°F. For reasons of personal preference, consumers may choose to cook poultry to higher temperatures.

The USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline does not recommend buying a whole, uncooked chicken stuffed at the grocery store because of the highly perishable nature of a previously stuffed item. Consumers should not pre-stuff whole chicken to cook at a later time. Chicken can be stuffed immediately before cooking. Some USDA-inspected frozen stuffed whole poultry MUST be cooked from the frozen state to ensure a safely cooked product. Follow preparation directions on the label.

To stuff a whole chicken at home, cook any raw meat, poultry, or shellfish ingredients for the stuffing to reduce the risk of foodborne illness from bacteria that may be found in raw ingredients. The wet ingredients for stuffing can be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated. However, do not mix wet and dry ingredients until just before spooning the stuffing mixture into the chicken cavity. Immediately cook the stuffed, raw chicken in an oven set no lower than 325°F.

Darkening around bones occurs primarily in young broiler-fryers. Since their bones have not calcified completely, pigment from the bone marrow can seep through the porous bones. Freezing can also contribute to this seepage. When the chicken is cooked, the pigment turns dark. It’s perfectly safe to eat chicken meat that turns dark during cooking.

The color of cooked chicken is not a sign of its safety. Only by using a food thermometer can one accurately determine that chicken has reached a safe minimum internal temperature of 165°F throughout. The pink color in safely cooked chicken may be due to the hemoglobin in tissues, which can form a heat-stable color. Smoking or grilling may also cause this reaction, which occurs more in young birds.