Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Can the Inside of My Steak Be Rare?

During a cooking lesson the other day, a student asked how we could be sure that the inside of the grass-fed skirt steak we would be cooking to rare wouldn't harbor any harmful bacteria in its not-well-done parts.

Coincidentally, there was an unfortunate story in Food Safety News earlier that week—"29 High Schoolers Infected with Rare E. Coli Strain from Deer"—that dealt with this issue.

"One unique theory from the study was that the skewers used for the kabobs could have transferred E. coli from the surface of the meat into the center of the venison chunks, which may have been undercooked. So-called whole meats, such as steak cuts, are typically considered safe to eat rare because pathogens cannot penetrate the inner tissues, and will be killed when cooked, but kabob skewers might carry the bacteria inside the meat."
Unfortunately, the same principle doesn't hold for ground meat, which can contain all types and surfaces of cuts. If you love hamburgers and love them rare (as I do), try to buy your ground beef from a local farmer that you know or have researched, rather than untraceable, commercial feedlot beef that is sold in most supermarkets and box stores.

One caveat: Food from local, artisan producers does not mean it is 100 percent safe. All it takes is one dirty hand, scissor or container to cause a problem. That being said, I trust individuals who care about their craft a lot more than I trust huge multinationals focused on the bottom line.

I buy (grass-fed) ground beef either from one farmer, Grazin' Angus Acres, at my local farmers' market or from my local Whole Foods, which gets its grass-fed beef from Simply Grazin' organic farm in New Jersey.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As a food scientist and food safety professional, thank you for saying that Local and Artisan does not immediatly mean "safe".

Be concerned about animal welfare. Be concerned about food miles. Be concerned about pesticides, GMO's, monoculture agriculture, and organic VS. intensive commercial growing, but be very concerned about food safety.

Unless you don't mind living a life without a colon and kidneys.