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Food Safety Feature Articles


Safe meat-cooking temperatures changed

Janet Hackert, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, Harrison County, University of Missouri Extension


In May 2011 the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced new recommendations that include fewer numbers to remember when cooking meats safely. Research has shown that pork cooked to a lower temperature and held for a specified amount of time results in as safe a product as with a previously higher recommended cooking temperature.


USDA now says that pork steaks, roasts and chops should be cooked to 145 degrees F, the same recommendation as for all other whole red meats, including beef, veal and lamb. The temperature should be measured using a meat thermometer, inserting the part of the thermometer that registers the temperature into the thickest part of the meat.


With the lower temperature comes a new requirement, one that is easy to comply with. Once the pork or whole red meat reaches the internal temperature of 145 F, it should rest for three minutes. This is accomplished by removing the meat from the grill, oven or stove and letting it sit. During this time, the temperature of the meat stays constant or it may continue to rise. Researchers at USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service have found that this process results in the same safe product as bringing the internal temperature to 160 F with no rest time, as was previously recommended. Either way, the meat has reached the temperature and time needed to destroy any illness-causing microorganisms that may be present.


Because ground meat has greater surface area and is more exposed to contamination during processing, the recommended safe cooking temperature for ground beef, lamb or pork remains at 160 F. All poultry — whether turkey or chicken, or whole, parts or ground — should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 F and measured by a food thermometer. Neither ground meat nor poultry require a rest time after reaching their safe temperature.


So it all boils down to three, easy-to-remember numbers:

  1. Cook whole meats to 145 F (with a three-minute rest time)
  2. Cook ground meat to 160 F
  3. Cook poultry to 165 F


For more information on the latest recommendations, go to the Food Safety and Inspection Service website at or contact nutrition and health education specialist Janet Hackert at 660-425-6434.


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Last update: Monday, August 01, 2011