September 18, 2009
by MEAT&POULTRY Staff
A new survey by the check-off-funded Beef Board showing that just 18 percent of consumers who had seen safe-cooking information know that 160 degrees F is the correct internal temperature for ground beef to guarantee the meat’s safety from pathogens is not necessarily bad news, according to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.
"We always look at this kind of information as an opportunity to see what consumers are thinking," Mandy Carr, executive director of beef safety research for the Board, told MEATPOULTRY.com. "And what we see is that consumers are interested in the safety of beef but they’re also interested in savory beef." She said the survey, which is conducted twice a year, "gives us an opportunity to gauge consumer attitudes and to make an improvement. I think that’s the great point to take away" from each survey.
The newest survey, which was conducted last July, also found that despite the evident lack of broad knowledge about how to cook beef safely, just 10 percent of consumers said beef was the food they worried them the most in terms of safety when bought at retail, and just nine percent said beef’s safety was their chief worry when beef is ordered in a restaurant. According to NCBA, both percentages "are significantly lower than previous measures." Also, half of the consumers surveyed said they had seen information in a supermarket about proper handling and cooking of fresh meat, and the top two recalled bits of safety information were to wash hands and cook to a recommended temperature using a meat thermometer, though just nine percent of those surveyed said they use a meat thermometer to determine ground-beef doneness.
More than half of the surveyed consumers, 57 percent, said they learned how to cook hamburgers from a parent; 29 percent claimed to be self-taught. On the method of determining doneness, 79 percent said they learned to use some combo of color: 44 percent said when the patty is no longer pink and the juices run clear; 22 percent said when the patty is no longer pink; and 13 percent said when the juices run clear.
Carr said her efforts to raise these percentages are focused on "core research" that’s being produced under the auspices of the Beef Industry Safety Commission and on further developing and marketing the beef industry’s www.safeandsavory160.com web site. "The Web site campaign has been very effective," she told MEATPOULTRY.com. "Not only that, but it’s something we can leverage with our state partners so they become more effective too."