Ask the Butcher
Q: Is undercooked pork dangerous to consume? I’ve read that a touch of pink is OK too. Can you clarify this?
A: Trichinosis, a disease cased by a parasite, was the major concern with undercooked pork. As of January 2000 the Public Health Agency of Canada removed Trichinosis from the national surveillance, no longer considering it a health issue. In fact the parasite is destroyed at 137 degrees F (58 degrees C) which is well below the recommended 160 degrees F (71 degrees C) internal cooking temperature. In particular a touch of pink is most enjoyed from loin cuts of the animal.
Q: What’s the difference between ‘back’, ‘side’, ‘sweet & sour’ and ‘spare ribs’?
A: Back ribs come from the loin of the animal. They are considered to have the highest proportion of meat to bone, and tend to be tastier and more tender than side ribs. For this reason back ribs are more expensive. Side ribs lie against the belly of the animal and attach to the breast bone. Sweet & sour ribs are cut into strips about 2 inches wide and regular ribs are cut between 3 and 5 inches wide with both considered spare ribs.
Q: Are ground meats hazardous to eat if undercooked?
A: Bacterium in meat is found mainly on the meat’s surface. Meat that has been ground has combined the bacterium from the outer portion of the meat and mixed it in with the inner portion of the meat. For this reason all ground meats including sausages and burgers must be cooked to well done (160 degrees).
Q: I forgot to put a box of steaks in the freezer that I had bought from the butcher. Some have thawed and some are still frozen and some slightly frozen. Can I re-freeze all the steaks or do I have to cook them?
A: Re-freezing meat that is thawed completely is not recommended; it should be cooked and consumed. Re-freezing a piece of protein will compromise the flavor and integrity of the cooked product because of significant moisture loss. Remove all thawed pieces of meat from the case and cook them. It is OK to re-freeze meat only if there are still a significant amount of ice crystals present in the meat or if the meat is still firm from freezing. These steaks may be placed back in to the freezer. This advice holds true for all meat, fish, and poultry equally.
Q: Is pork a red or white meat?
A: The US National Pork Producer’s have generated a lot of confusion on this subject with their slogan, “Pork, the other white meat.” There is no doubt about it; pork is classified as a red meat because all red meat comes from animals with cloven hooves.
Q: What does it mean when protein is labeled ‘seasoned or moisture enhanced?’
A: Protein labeled “seasoned or moisture enhanced” means that it has been processed using a brine solution made of salt, water and sodium phosphate. Meat and poultry, such as beef, pork and chicken can be “seasoned” in order to create a product that retains moisture even when overcooked. The addition of salt, water and sodium phosphate to solid meat or poultry allows the product to retain moisture throughout cooking: the sodium phosphate binds the water molecules to the protein in the meat, and the salt acts as an enabler in the process. Seasoned meats and poultry are not flavored or spiced and so they do not have a taste noticeably different than unseasoned products. Since many cuts of pork are very low in fat, they can become dry and perceived as tough after cooking. Seasoned pork allows for a more tender and juicy product even if overcooked or held warm for periods of time.
Q: Why is Beef aged and not Pork?
A: Beef has stronger connective tissue and relies on the aging process to break down the connective tissues. Pork does not have strong connective tissue. This means it is not as tough to begin with and that there is no advantage to aging Pork as it causes the shelf life to decrease, creating a Food Safety issue.
Q: What is Freezer Burn, and is it harmful?
A: Freezer burn is caused when the meat in your freezer is exposed to the air. The moisture slowly evaporates from the surface of the meat, leaving a dry discolored surface. It can be trimmed off without affecting the rest of the meat. Proper wrapping to seal the meat from the outside air is the best protection and make sure not to bump the product and tear open the seal. It is not harmful if you should eat it, but the flavor and texture will not be optimum.