Buying fresh meat at the store is not too difficult if you know what to look for. I always bring a cooler with ice packs in it when I shop - you never know when you'll need it. It also gives you leeway in case you need to stop somewhere else.
- At the store, buy fresh meat and poultry products last - right before you are ready to check out.
- Meat and poultry products should feel cold to touch. Do not purchase products that feel warm, as this indicates that the product has not been stored at the proper temperature.
- Place products in a plastic bag to prevent juices from leaking onto other products in your cart.
- Choose packages that are tightly wrapped and have no tears or punctures. Be sure that packages do not contain excessive liquid, which can be an indication of temperature fluctuation or lengthy storage.
- If it takes longer than 30 minutes to get fresh meat products home from the store, bring a cooler with ice along to keep them cold.
- Choose beef with a bright cherry-red color. A darker purplish-red color is typical of vacuum-packaged beef. Once exposed to oxygen, beef will turn from a darker red to bright red.
- Ground beef is more perishable than whole muscle cuts of meat and should be handled with care.
- Fresh ground beef does go through a number of color changes during its shelf life. These color changes are normal, and the ground beef remains perfectly wholesome and safe to eat if purchased by the "sell by" date on the package label.
- A package of ground beef may appear bright red on the surface, where it is exposed to oxygen, through the permeable plastic wrapping, while the interior, where oxygen is absent, remains purplish-red. With extended exposure to oxygen, beef's cherry-red color will take on a brown color.
- Choose pork cuts with a pink color. Cuts, steaks, and roasts should be firm to touch.
- Raw turkey skin color is off-white to cream colored. The color under the skin can range from a pink to lavender blue depending on the amount of fat just under the skin; this is normal.
- Bone-in products should be fully fleshed and meaty, have a normal shape, and be free of disjointed or broken bones.
- Products with the skin on should be free of pinfeathers, exposed flesh, and discolorations.
- Boneless products should be free of bone, cartilage, tendons, and bruises.