Poultry Food Safety Tips on National Poultry Day

When it seems like there’s a “National Day” for everything already – National Poultry Day on March 19th comes around.

“Poultry” is a term used for any kind of domesticated birds raised for the production of meat, eggs, or feathers. These domestic fowl include: chickens, turkeys, and other birds such as: ducks, geese, quail, pheasant, ostrich, guinea fowl, and peafowl.

Celebrate your favorite fowl on National Poultry Day and if posting on social media, use the hashtag #NationalPoultryDay.

U.S. Poultry Statistics

The USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) collects data on poultry production in
the United States through its ongoing survey programs as well as through the Census of
Agriculture conducted every five years.

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In 2014, the U.S. poultry industry produced 8.54 billion broilers, 99.8 billion eggs, and 238 million turkeys. The combined value of production from broilers, eggs, turkeys, and the value of sales from chickens in 2014 was $48.3 billion, up 9 percent from $44.4 billion in 2013.
Source: https://www.usda.gov/sites/default/files/documents/nass-poultry-stats-factsheet.pdf

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, the U.S. poultry industry is the world’s largest producer and second largest exporter of poultry meat and a major egg producer.
Source: https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/animal-products/poultry-eggs/

Poultry and Poultry Products U.S. Grades and Standards

U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) defines poultry products grades and standards. These standards promote uniformity and assurance of product quality on a continuous basis regardless of supplier. The official USDA grade shield indicates the product’s quality level.

  • U.S. Grade A. A lot of ready-to-cook poultry, parts, or poultry food products consisting of one or more ready-to-cook carcasses or parts, or individual units of poultry food products of the same kind and class, each of which conforms to the requirements for A quality may be designated as U.S. Grade A.
  • U.S. Grade B. A lot of ready-to-cook poultry or parts consisting of one or more ready-to-cook carcasses or parts of the same kind and class, each of which conforms to the requirements for B quality or better may be designated as U.S. Grade B.
  • U.S. Grade C. A lot of ready-to-cook poultry or parts consisting of one or more ready-to-cook carcasses or parts of the same kind and class, each of which conforms to the requirements for C quality or better, may be designated as U.S. Grade C.

Source: https://www.ams.usda.gov/grades-standards/poultry-and-poultry-products-grades-and-standards

Food Illness from Poultry

The CDC estimates that every year about a million people get sick from eating poultry that’s contaminated with harmful bacteria. That’s why it’s important to follow proper preparation and cooking procedures to ensure food safety when it comes to chicken.

Raw poultry may contain harmful bacteria such as salmonella, listeria, and campylobacter. Washing chicken and other poultry does not remove bacteria. You can kill these bacteria only by cooking chicken to the proper temperature.

Washing Poultry Can Spread Harmful Bacteria

According to the USDA, washing poultry before cooking is not recommended.  When you wash uncooked chicken, you can easily spread salmonella or other bacteria from poultry juices can be spread to other foods, utensils, and surfaces. This is called cross-contamination. It also makes it more likely someone in your family will touch the contaminated items or surfaces and get sick.

To prevent cross-contamination, build habits such as frequently washing hands, utensils, cutting boards, and work surfaces. For instance, if you prep a raw chicken on a cutting board, don’t use the same cutting board later to slice tomatoes for the salad. At least not without washing it first. And the same goes for your knife.

Cooking Poultry to the Proper Temperature

Raw poultry is not safe to eat and will lead to food illness or poisoning. The best way to make sure that your chicken does not contain harmful bacteria is to cook it properly.

According to the USDA, all poultry (breasts, whole bird, legs, thighs, and wings, ground poultry, and stuffing) should always be cooked thoroughly to 165˚F.

Use a food thermometer to make sure poultry is cooked to a safe internal temperature of 165°F. Also, cut into the thickest part of the meat and ensure that it is steaming hot with no pink meat and that the juices run clear.

Food Illness Symptoms

The symptoms of food illness or poisoning often come on quickly, usually within 8 to 72 hours after consuming contaminated food.

Symptoms may be aggressive and can last for up to 48 hours. Typical symptoms during this acute stage include:

  • abdominal pain, cramping, or tenderness
  • chills
  • diarrhea
  • fever
  • muscle pain
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • signs of dehydration (such as decreased or dark-colored urine, dry mouth, and low energy)
  • bloody stool

Should you call the doctor?
Anyone can get a foodbourne illness, but children younger than 5 years of age, adults aged 65 and older, people with weakened immune systems, and pregnant women are more likely to develop a serious illness.

Call or see the doctor if you or someone has the following severe signs of food illness:

  • High fever (temperature more than 101.5°F)
  • Diarrhea for more than 3 days that is not improving
  • Bloody stools
  • Prolonged vomiting that prevents you from keeping liquids down
  • Signs of dehydration, such as:
    • Making very little urine
    • Dry mouth and throat
    • Dizziness when standing up