USDA Encourages the Use of Food Thermometers to be Food Safe this Summer

closeup meat thermometer on stainless steel, utensil in the kitchenSummer is a time for family vacations, backyard barbecues and plenty of outdoor activities with food as the centerpiece. But before those steaks and burgers go on the grill, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) wants to remind consumers to keep their family and themselves safe from foodborne illness by using a food thermometer to ensure meat and poultry is cooked to the correct internal temperature.

“The best and only way to make sure bacteria have been killed and the food is safe to eat is by cooking it to the correct internal temperature as measured by a food thermometer,” said FSIS Administrator Al Almanza. “It is a simple step that can stop your family and guests from getting a foodborne illness.”

Recent research by USDA and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found that only 34 percent of the public use a food thermometer when cooking hamburgers. If you don’t verify your burger’s internal temperature, pathogens may still be present. When eaten, those hamburgers can make your guests and your family sick.

In fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 48 million people suffer from foodborne illness each year, resulting in roughly 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths.

So how do you avoid becoming a part of those statistics? Follow USDA’s four easy steps to food safety this summer.

Clean: Make sure to always wash your hands and surfaces with soap and warm water for 20 seconds before cooking and after handling raw meat or poultry. If cooking outside or away from a kitchen, pack clean cloths and moist towelettes for cleaning surfaces and hands.

Separate: When taking food off of the grill, use clean utensils and platters. Don’t put cooked food on the same platter that held raw meat or poultry.

Cook: Always use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of meat and poultry. Place the food thermometer in the thickest part of the food.

  • Hamburgers, sausages and other ground meats should reach 160°F.
  • All poultry should reach a minimum temperature of 165°F.
  • Whole cuts of pork, lamb, veal, and of beef should be cooked to 145°F as measured by a food thermometer placed in the thickest part of the meat, and allowed to rest for three minutes before eating. A “rest time” is the amount of time the product remains at the final temperature, after it has been removed from a grill, oven, or other heat source. During the three minutes after meat is removed from the heat source, its temperature remains constant or continues to rise, which destroys pathogens.
  • Fish should be cooked to 145°F.
  • Meat and poultry cooked on a grill often browns very fast on the outside, and by using a food thermometer you can be sure items have reached a safe minimum internal temperature needed to destroy any harmful bacteria that may be present.

Chill: Place leftovers in shallow containers and refrigerate or freeze immediately. Discard food that has been sitting out longer than two hours.

Need more food safety information? Call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at (1-888-674-6854) Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET, or email or chat at AskKaren.gov.

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Make the Most of Your Tobacco, Beef Operation

IMG_0956Presentations at Tobacco, Beef and More Field Day Provide Value for Producers

Whether you’re a beef cattle producer or a tobacco producer, you can learn useful strategies to make your operation more productive at the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture’s Tobacco, Beef and More Field Day.  It takes place on Thursday, June 22, at the Highland Rim AgResearch and Education Center in Springfield. Admission is free.

Registration begins at 7:30 a.m. CDT at the field day assembly area off Oakland Road. Field tours begin at 8:45. Arrive early so you can tour the trade show and educational displays. The complete program is available online at http://highlandrim.tennessee.edu.

Tobacco Tours will introduce visitors to a new dark fire variety, guide them in selecting the right liming material, and cover best practices for managing foliar diseases like angular leaf spot. Visitors can also learn about the practice of chemically topping burley tobacco, including appropriate rates, optimal timings, and the varieties that respond best to this method.

Beef Tour presentations will include information on pasture management and weed control in pastures and hay fields. Other presentations will cover drought management and proper location of water in pastures.

Additionally, visitors can choose to take an overview tour of the Highland Rim AgResearch Center.  Learn about the Center’s history, current research programs, and its important role in Tennessee agriculture.

The tours will conclude at approximately 12:30 p.m. when visitors will be treated to a delicious lunch (steak sandwich, chips, cold drinks).

More details are available at http://highlandrim.tennessee.edu and on the Highland Rim AgResearch Center Facebook page. For additional information, or to request an accommodation for accessibility, please contact the Highland Rim office at 615-382-3130.

Pesticide re-certification points will be available for Categories 1, 4, 10 and 12.  Attendees can earn three points per category.

Cattlemen Applaud Gov. Terry Branstad’s Confirmation As Ambassador to China

Beijing downtown

Craig Uden, president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, released the following statement in response to the U.S. Senate’s confirmation of Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad to be the U.S. Ambassador to China:

“As the six-term governor of a state with more than $10 billion in annual agricultural exports, Terry Branstad is an ideal person to help facilitate the U.S. beef industry’s return to the Chinese market for the first time in 13-plus years. Ambassador Branstad has said that he intends to serve American-produced beef at the U.S. embassy in Beijing, and America’s cattle producers look forward to working with him to make that a reality as soon as possible.”

In addition, Mike Cline, president of the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association, said:

“Ambassador Branstad has been a great friend to Iowa cattlemen and the agriculture industry as Governor of Iowa. He has shown a great commitment to the growth of beef and other agricultural exports, and we look forward to the work he will do on behalf of all Americans in his new capacity as Ambassador to China.”

Fall Calving Season May Yield Higher Returns for Southeastern Beef Producers

edited IMG_8859The vast majority of cow-calf producers in Tennessee and the Southeast using a defined calving season have long favored spring calving; however, researchers at the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture have evaluated the risk and returns for a fall calving season, proving once again that timing is everything.

Selecting an optimal calving season involves a complex set of factors including nutritional demands of brood cows, forage availability, calf weaning weights, calving rates, seasonality in cattle, feed prices and labor availability.

Until now, information regarding profitability and risk associated with spring and fall calving seasons in the southeastern United States has been limited. Addressing this limitation, researchers assessed the potential trade-offs in risk and return of using a fall calving season rather than a spring calving season, while considering the seasonality of cattle and feed prices for least-cost feed rations.

Using simulation models based on 19 years of data, UTIA researchers determined that the fall calving season, calving between mid-September and mid-November, was most profitable and had the smallest amount of variation in profits, meaning fall calving was less risky.

This may seem counterintuitive, as spring calving produces heavier calves at weaning and feed costs are lower. The increased profitability of fall-season calving is due to the higher prices the calves can bring at weaning and an increase in calves weaned per cow.

Information from this research can help cow-calf producers in Tennessee and other southeastern states as they navigate the complex decision of choosing a calving season. Additional information can be found in the associated UT Extension publication Fall Versus Spring Calving: Considerations and Profitability Comparison.

“While this research indicates possible advantages for fall calving, it is also important to consider the additional costs associated with switching seasons and labor availability in the fall when crops are harvested,” says Chris Boyer, assistant professor for UT’s Agricultural and Resource Economics Department.

County Extension agents are available to help producers evaluate if fall calving is beneficial for their herds.

Fall Versus Spring Calving: Considerations and Profitability Comparison is available at no charge online at the UT Extension publications website:extension.tennessee.edu/publications. Simply search for the publication by title.