On my way to CTV Ottawa's Morning show, I quipped that I should check the headlines to be sure chicken wasn't in the news. I was going to talk about how to economically cut up a whole chicken to save money and time but raw chicken is normally not something you see on TV. It just isn't. There is an ick factor even though it is Canada's #1 source of protein and most of consume it upwards of three times per week.
And there it was...a news report showing that grocery stores had been caught changing expiry dates. Ugh. The CFIA is pretty strict about all food requiring best before dates and leave it to someone to figure out how to beat the system. There are rules about how long and how cold a meat must be. More rules about how it can be stacked and what temperature the fridge should be at, how deeply the packets can be stacked and more rules I don't even know about. But when a retailer takes it upon themselves to open the package, sniff and sell, I'm annoyed.
I can't tell you that much about other meats but I have worked with and for the Chicken Farmers of Canada. I have been in those barns and made friends with those farmers. I have reassured myself of the cleanliness, safety and processes in place to include foods not only in my recommendations but also for my own family. I can tell you, I have drilled deeper than most and I am good with where it starts, how it grows and where it ends up. Could it be better? Yep. Always. As can everything else as times and knowledge change.
The truth, as I understand it, is that the monitoring and oversight of this loophole is lacking. If this "rewrap" is common practice, it should be caught and stopped. But that doesn't help you at home, does it? Here are a few tips that might:
1. Know your grocer, talk to your butcher, look them in the eye and ask what is fresh. Kick it old school. There is nothing like a good relationship to keep everyone honest.
2. Choose a package from the back at the bottom that has the latest date possible if you have to choose from the shelf
3. Shop often, store shorter
4. Keep all meat product in cooler bags from store shelf to your fridge
5. Cook as quickly as possible
6. Always, always use a meat thermometer. Much of what could grow on the meat can be killed by proper cooking. Cook chicken to 165 F or 74 C if in pieces. Whole chicken to 185 F or 85 C.
7. Wash up well! Cross-contamination can happen with any meat so be sure to use hot soapy water and even a cap-full of bleach to clean cutting boards
I do love my chicken. It is my go to lean protein at home and I will not let the schoolyard bully re-wrap my dinner and tell me it's fresh. Jeeze and the teacher isn't watching.
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