Consumers more savvy on ground beef cooking temps

by Bryan Salvage
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DENVER – Consumers who know the correct cooking temperature for ground beef are slightly increasing in number, according to a national survey funded by the Beef Checkoff Program. Thanks to efforts made over the past several years by the beef industry and retail partners to educate consumers, more people today could name the proper cooking temperature for ground beef (18%) when compared with 2007 (13%).

But the survey also shows most consumers can benefit from a refresher on cooking safe beef.

“We’re pleased with the progress, but it shows there is still work to be done,” says Helen Wiese, chair of the checkoff’s retail committee and a cow/calf producer from Manning, Iowa. “Together with our retail partners, there is great opportunity to educate consumers on how beef can stay safe at home through proper cooking techniques, like using an instant-read thermometer.”

Traditionally, consumers demonstrate a heightened awareness of proper handling techniques following a food recall or when food safety is covered in the news, said Rick McCarty, vice president of issue analysis and strategy for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, which contracts to manage consumer research for the Beef Checkoff Program.

“Given the current food-safety climate, now is a prime time to educate consumers at the meat case about ways to handle and prepare their beef in not only the tastiest, but also the safest way,” he added.

Retailers are in a unique position to provide customers with essential information needed to properly and safely cook beef at the point of purchase. Consumer awareness of proper cooking techniques is improving, but the majority of consumers could benefit from conversations with meat case employees and signage reinforcing safe cooking methods.

The beef checkoff program created Safe and Savory at 160°F, a consumer-facing education campaign designed to arm retailers with the right tools and the right message to empower their customers with proper cooking temperatures for ground beef.

Ground beef products, including hamburgers, should be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 160° F, as measured by an instant-read meat thermometer. This ensures the beef is not over- or under-cooked and kills any harmful bacteria that may be present. Introduced in 2008, the integrated education effort features posters, brochures, online and social media and a website to drive home the message that beef should be cooked with a meat thermometer to 160° F for optimal flavor and safety.

The checkoff-funded survey was conducted July 8-12. The national survey of 933 American adult beef eaters had a margin of error of +/-3.3% and was funded by the Beef Checkoff Program.
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