Meat, poultry, and eggs: What does the USDA test for? Fun Fact Friday

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) just released the annual U.S. National Residue Program for Meat, Poultry, and Egg Products, a.k.a. the “Blue Book” which summarizes the process that the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) will use to sample meat, poultry, and egg products in 2015 for chemical contaminants of public health concern (i.e. pesticides, hormones, heavy metals, antibiotics, etc.). The chemical compounds tested for include approved and unapproved veterinary drugs, pesticides, and environmental compounds.

Not only is testing done on meat and eggs raised/grown in the U.S., but also on imported goods. However, the testing is different and somewhat limited on imported products (page 9 for more details).


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Just How Safe Is Your Organic Food?

Is organic food safer, healthier, or more nutritious than conventionally produced food? Research indicates there are no significant differences. Rhonda at Iowa Meets Maui does a very nice job of discussing this issue.

Men vs Women: Takeout food preferences…Fun Fact Friday

GrubHub, a mobile food ordering service has indicated that there are gender differences in takeout orders which include day, time, location, and food type. recently reported that GrubHub analyzed one year’s data of more than 30,000 restaurants in 700 cities and found:

– Both men and women most frequently ordered pizza, fries, salad, and soups. However, that is where the similarities end. Men tend to favor American type foods, while women more commonly ordered Asian inspired dishes.

Men were also more likely to order: Boneless Chicken Wings, Chicken Parmesan, General Tso’s Chicken, and Bacon Cheeseburgers.

Women were more likely to order: Seaweed Salad, Edamame, Avocado Rolls, House Salads, and Shrimp Tempura Rolls.

GrubHub also tracked “fad” foods, and found that women prefer healthier menu options than men.

“Fad” food chosen by men included: Bacon, Poutine, Sriracha, Biscuits, and Fried Chicken.

“Fad” foods chosen by women included: Chia Seeds, Pressed Juice, Cupcakes, Frozen Yogurt, and Beets.

And finally, GrubHub also found that men are 55% more likely to order food between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. than women; and men are more likely to place pick-up orders than women. However, women are 30% more likely to order food to work than men. Women are also more likely to order food during breakfast hours (8 a.m.-11 a.m.) than men.

Do these trends fit you? I have to admit that neither one fits me very well. I am a good mix of both the male and female trends described by GrubHub!

brussels sprouts
Brussels sprouts and bacon! A great combination πŸ™‚


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Broth vs Stock – There is a difference!

I recently blogged about my crock-pot chicken, and how I froze the broth. A reader asked if I ever further boiled down the bones and fat. I have not done it for chicken, but as I researched it more, I made a discovery. Those of you that already knew this are probably going to chuckle…

But I learned that broth is what I make – the juices that the chicken is cooked in, seasonings, and vegetables. However, stock is from the bones, vegetables, and some meat – furthered boiled down! Stock offers a much richer, bolder taste that really enhances recipes like chicken or beef noodle soup! Additionally, there are several reported benefits to drinking it by itself if you are ill or not feeling well, as it contains numerous nutritional advantages.

In doing more research online, it can be a little confusing as people tend to use these words interchangeably, and their definitions vary a little. This website and this one do a great job of further explaining the difference.

I found a few recipes and guidelines if you are interested in making your own.

Chicken stock recipe here and here.

Beef stock recipe here and here.

You can also make turkey, fish, or vegetable stocks.

I love the rich color of the stock! This has inspired me to take my bones to the next level and to make some stock!

Chicken stock. Photo source: Elana’s pantry.
Beef stock. Photo Source: Simply Recipes.

Have you ever made stock? Do you notice a big flavor difference between stock and broth?


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Oysters… Fun Fact Friday

This past week 1,300 agricultural focused extension folks from around the nation gathered in Mobile, Alabama for our annual conference. There are always great presentations, posters, vendors, and conversations that provide educational opportunities. But we also have a chance to go on a day tour to learn more about something in the area. This year I selected an oyster and crawfish tour. Certainly not something we have much of in Nebraska, but it was very interesting. Today I want to share with you some of the fun facts I learned about oysters.

— Oysters are animals and can be grown in off-bottom gardens. Off-bottom means the oysters are grown in baskets, bags, cages, etc. that are suspended in the water, versus on the bottom of the water source. Off-bottom gardens protect the oysters from predators and helps keep them safe from getting buried in bottom of the water sediment.

Oyster gardens. You can see how the air jugs help keep the oyster gardens suspended.

An oyster garden in water.

— Oyster gardens are handled weekly until they are harvested. They are sorted based on their size, moved to different containers to best fit their size, are exposed to air to promote optimal health of the oyster (ie limit barnacle growth on the oyster and gardens), and to ensure shell growth is optimal.

— At this time, a good, healthy oyster can be sold for $.50-$.60 each. Sounds like a lot of money until you consider all of the handling and man-hours that are put into oyster farming.

Old oyster shells act as a place for new oysters to grow. Notice the new oysters are only about dime size.

— One female oyster can release more than 20 million eggs in a single spawn! Oysters spawn in 68 degree F water.

— An oyster can filter four gallons of water in one hour!

— A predator of the oyster is the Oyster Drill which permeates the oyster’s shell by making a small hole. It injects a serum that makes the oyster turn to liquid, and then it sucks out the oyster, leaving an empty shell.

The oyster drill

— Mobile has an Oyster Trail. These are large painted shells around the city that have a beautiful painting on them and a fun fact. You can obtain a map of where the shells are located, and write down the facts at each one, and then mail your form back in for a prize!


This is just a small portion of what I learned. For more information on oyster farming and gardens go here and here.

Dark cutting beef…Fun Fact Friday

Have you ever seen or wondered why the color of meat may vary? Beef (and most meats) is naturally a bright, cherry red color.

When an animal is harvested (slaughtered) for meat, energy in the form of ATP (Adenosine triphosphate) is needed. The ATP breaks down glycogen (which is the source of carbohydrate energy for the muscles) through postmortem glycolysis, which produces lactic acid. Lactic acid builds up in the muscle over a 16 to 24 hour post-harvest time frame. A normal level of lactic acid in the muscle will cause the meat to be bright cherry red (pH of 5.6) when it is exposed to oxygen for a short period of time.

In dark cutting beef, the animal has undergone extreme stress or excitement before it is harvested. Some beef breeds are predisposed to be more excitable than others, and calm, low-stress handling is very important with these cattle. High stress events may include, but are not limited to: handling, transportation, weather extremes, or anything that would make the animal draw on glycogen reserves before it is harvested. When the available glycogen is used up, the limited amount available is converted to lactic acid, the muscle pH will be 6.0 or higher, and the color of the meat will be darker than normal. The color can range from dark red to nearly black in color! Dark cutting beef can also be firm and dry appearing, and is commonly referred to as Dark, Firm, and Dry (DFD).

Dark cutting occurs in less than 5% of all carcasses (and carcasses will receive a discount at the packing plant), and is usually higher in the fall and winter months as temperature fluctuations are more common. Dark cutting beef is safe to consume and generally has no palatability problems. It is generally used in the food-service industry rather in the retail industry. Meat of this color is not aesthetically pleasing to consumers, additionally it has a shortened shelf-life, and poor storage properties.

The carcass on the left is a dark cutter, while the carcass on the right would be considered the bright, cherry red of a normal carcass. Source: UNL Quality Assurance.


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Prime Steaks … Fun Fact Friday

When you shop for steaks what do you look for? Price? Amount of marbling (flecks of fat within the muscle)? Portion size? Lean vs fat? Or do you shop for a specific cut? Ribeye? T-bone? Filet? The intramuscular marbling is what makes a cut of meat tender, flavorful, and juicy. Usually the more marbling a steak has the better the eating experience will be. So naturally this would make us seek out highly marbled cuts of meat right? Yes and no.

Highly marbled ribeye steaks. Marbling (flecks of fat within the muscle) increase tenderness, juiciness, and flavor.

Very highly marbled cuts of meat are generally reserved for higher end restaurants, and the highest marbled beef is called Prime (Yield Grade 1). The primary reason Prime steak is not commonly sold in the retail sector is that only 2 to 3% of cattle in the U.S. grade Prime!

For more on how meat is graded check out this document. In retail settings we will generally see Choice and/or Select cuts of meat. Choice cuts of meat also have a significant amount of marbling, where Select cuts of meat will have less marbling (making them leaner too).

grilled tbones
My favorite way to eat a steak is grilled! Yum.

How much marbling do you like in your steak? Where is your favorite place to get a steak?


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Chicken ears – the better to hear you with…

Yes, chickens have ears! They actually start developing hearing on day 12 of incubation! Of course they don’t look like ours or another animals with an external display of ear.They are located on either side of their head, and are small holes that can be difficult to see because they may be covered in feathers. You may be able to see their lobes which stick out slightly from their head, and are located in the space behind the eye and wattle (the red floppy skin under their chin).

The chicken ear has three parts like ours, the outer ear, middle ear, and inner ear (to help with balance). Also, chickens have the ability to regrow the inner ear hair cells! Humans cannot do this, and as we age our inner ear hair cells contribute to loss of balance. Research is looking at how chickens can help humans with hearing loss!

The color of your chicken’s ear lobes can actually be a good predictor of the color of their eggs. A white lobe means they will lay white eggs, a brown lobe means they will lay brown eggs. The color of a chicken’s feathers may not be the same color of their lobes. For more on the color of the egg go here.

Chicken head, notice the ear and the ear lobe – the color indicator of eggs. (Photo credit:
Turkey head – ears and all! (Photo credit:

I bet you will never look at a chicken head the same way again!

Egg Information…Fun Fact Friday

During the week I usually eat oatmeal for breakfast, as it fits into my schedule the best. But on weekends, I love a big breakfast of eggs and my favorite morning meat (bacon or ham). Since I am anticipating the breakfast that awaits tomorrow, I wanted to share some egg fun facts with you.

The edible incredible egg…


Did you know that a chicken produces an egg every 24-32 hours?

To produce 1 dozen eggs, a hen eats about four pounds of feed!

Most eggs are laid between 7 – 11 a.m.

Eggs are good for your eyes, they contain lutein. Lutein helps prevent age related cataracts and muscle degeneration.

The edible part of a chicken egg is about 74% water, 13% protein, 11% fat and 2% other (ash).

Chickens start laying eggs when they are 20 weeks of age.

There is no nutritional difference between white shelled eggs, brown shelled eggs, or blue/green shelled eggs – the egg color is usually the same color as the chicken’s ear lobes.

There are approximately 280 million egg laying birds in the U.S.; each produces 250-300 eggs per year … that’s 77 billion eggs produced annually in the U.S.!

Eggs 6-5-12
Eggs can come in a variety of colors – but there is no nutritional difference.

For more poultry facts go here and here.

MEAT Facts…Fun Fact Friday

It has been awhile since I have done a Fun Fact Friday post. I saw this list pop up on BuzzFeed yesterday, and I thought it was great.

The American Meat Institute put together a list of 15 common myths about meat and meat production and provides the FACTS to disprove these myths. They are honest and TRUE! If you would like more resources or information about any of the facts presented, please let me know – I would be more than happy to visit with you!

15 Common Meat Myths That Need to be Crushed forΒ Good

Note: you can click on the headers in each section for additional supporting information.

Have a great weekend!