You may have heard the recent hype about food that is tenderized mechanically as well as the proposed regulations for that practice. But what exactly is it and what are the potential hazards associated with it?
Let’s start with the definition. Mechanical tenderization is essentially that, a mechanical process that involves either the pounding or piercing of hundreds of small blades or needles into meat in order to break down muscle fibers to make it more tender and, ideally, more appetizing.
What are the risks involved with this? The physical penetration of the blades into the meat has revealed a prime area of opportunity for bacteria. Bacteria on the surface of the meat can be driven deep into the meat; far enough where standard recommended cooking temperatures won’t make a difference.
How do you know if your meat items are mechanically tenderized? You won’t. Currently, there is no regulation in place to denote this on product labels, which is what the proposed regulation will cover. But we have good news for you: Festival Foods declares mechanically tenderized on all meat products AND adjusts the cook temps above the standard (per USDA guidelines).
Here’s where to find that information on our labels:
What can you do until this regulation is mandatory? Read the labels, and cook all mechanically tenderized meat products to a minimum internal temperature of 160 degrees and 165 degrees for poultry. Go ahead and use the meat thermometer in your junk drawer. If you’re out to eat, ask the restaurant’s meat is mechanically tenderized. If it is, order your steak well done.
It’s important to know that mechanically tenderized meat is not a bad thing — just make sure you properly cook your meat!