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Script: Lamb and Lamb Food Safety

 

Intro:
Welcome to USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service podcast. Each episode will bring you cutting edge news and information about how FSIS is working to ensure public health protection through food safety. While we're on the job, you can rest assured that your meat, poultry, and processed egg products are safe, wholesome, properly labeled, and packaged correctly. So turn up your volume and listen in.

Host:
Welcome to "Food Safety at Home." This is Kathy Bernard with the Food Safety and Inspection Service. I'm your host for this segment. With me today is Eileen Dykes, technical information specialist from FSIS' Food Safety Education Staff. Eileen and I will discuss lamb and lamb food safety.

Hello, Eileen, welcome to the show.

Guest:
Thank you Kathy. I'm pleased to be here.

Host:
Lamb is the oldest domesticated meat species. It has been raised by humans beginning about 9,000 years ago in the Middle East. In many countries, lamb is the major dietary meat source. Many Americans think of lamb as a springtime food, but it can be enjoyed year round.

Eileen, what exactly is lamb?

Guest:
Lamb is meat from sheep less than 1 year old. Most are brought to market at about 6 to 8 months old. If the phrase "Spring Lamb" is on a meat label, it means the lamb was slaughtered between March and October.

A lamb weighs about 120 pounds and yields approximately 60 to 72 pounds of retail lamb cuts, which include bone and fat.

Host:
We often hear the term "mutton." What is mutton?

Guest:
Mutton is meat from sheep more than a year old. It is usually less tender than lamb and has a stronger flavor.

Host:
Is lamb inspected by USDA?

Guest:
Yes, all lamb found in retail stores is either USDA inspected for wholesomeness or inspected by state systems which have standards equal to the Federal government. Each lamb and its internal organs are inspected for signs of disease. The "Passed and Inspected by USDA" seal insures the lamb is wholesome and free from disease.

Host:
What about grading?

Guest:
Although inspection of lamb is mandatory; grading is voluntary. A processing plant may request to have its meat graded for quality, based on traits such as tenderness, juiciness and flavor of the meat. USDA-graded lamb sold at the retail level is either Prime, Choice, or Good. Lower grades (Utility and Cull) are mainly ground or used in processed meat products. Retail stores may use other terms which must be different from USDA grades.

USDA Prime lamb has more fat marbling, as it is the most tender and flavorful grade. However, it is higher in fat content. Most of the graded lamb sold in supermarkets is USDA Choice or USDA Good.

Host:
What else do consumers need to know about purchasing lamb?

Guest:
When shopping, select lamb just before checking out at the register. Put packages of raw lamb in disposable plastic bags (if available) to keep any juices from cross-contaminating cooked foods or produce in the grocery cart that will be eaten raw, such as salad.

Take it home immediately and refrigerate it at 40 °F or below. Use ground lamb or stew meat within 1 to 2 days, lamb chops, roasts, and steaks within 3 to 5 days or freeze at 0 °F or below. If kept frozen continuously, it will be safe indefinitely.

It is safe to freeze lamb in its original packaging or to repackage it. However, for long-term freezing, overwrap the porous store plastic with storage wraps or bags to prevent "freezer burn," which appears as grayish-brown leathery spots and is caused by air reaching the surface of food.

For best quality, use frozen lamb steaks, roasts, and chops within 6 to 9 months; ground lamb, within 3 to 4 months.

Host:
What about thawing lamb?

Guest:
Lamb can be thawed in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave. It's best to plan ahead for slow, safe thawing in the refrigerator. Ground lamb, stew meat, and steaks may defrost within a day. Bone-in parts and whole roasts may take 2 days or longer.

Host:
Can you tell us how to cook lamb safely?

Guest:
For safety, the USDA recommends cooking lamb patties and ground lamb mixtures such as meat loaf to a safe minimum internal temperature of 160 °F as measured with a food thermometer before removing the meat from the heat source. However, whole muscle meats such as roasts, steaks, and chops may be cooked to 145 °F.

Host:
You can learn more about _lamb and lamb food safety by visiting the FSIS Web site at www.fsis.usda.gov. That's www.fsis.usda.gov. Or visit us online for assistance from our virtual representative "Ask Karen" at Askkaren.gov.

Guest:
Consumers may also call our toll-free USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline. That's 1-888-674-6854.

Host:
That's it for this week. We've been talking to Eileen Dykes from FSIS' Food Safety Education Staff. Thank you so much, Eileen, for your helpful guidance on lamb and lamb food safety. I'm Kathy Bernard and I'd like to thank you for joining us for this episode of "Food Safety at Home." And remember, "Be Food Safe."

Outro:
Well, that's all for this episode. We'd like your feedback on our podcast. Or if you have ideas for future podcasts, send us an e-mail at podcast@fsis.usda.gov. To learn more about food safety, try our web site at www.fsis.usda.gov. Thanks for tuning in.

Last Modified Nov 08, 2013