Kitchen Tips
from the Farm Kitchen
Reading Meat and Poultry Labels
Understanding the labels on food packages at the grocery store can be a little challenging at times. We’re bombarded with numerous food choices in brightly colored boxes, bags and other containers.

Packages change as foods become “new and improved.” The federal rules for food labeling change periodically, too, so it’s important to be aware of the changes.

For example, have you noticed that “trans fats” are listed on most Nutrition Facts labels? It’s a good idea to know they’re present in foods because they’re not good for your heart. It’s best to limit foods containing trans fats.

Do you know anyone with a food allergy? As of 2006, food labels are required to identify common ingredients that cause allergic reactions. Avoiding these ingredients can be a matter of life and death for some people.

Understanding food labeling terms and making comparisons as you fill your grocery cart can be good for your health.

Meat and poultry items sometimes include labeling terms that can be a little confusing. For example, what does it mean if poultry is labeled “free roaming?” Do you need to put a leash on the bird to keep it in your grocery cart?

The good news for consumers is that the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service ensures truthfulness and accuracy in the labeling of meat and poultry products. The rules are applied consistently to meat and poultry products.

Try these questions about meat and poultry labeling. We’ll start with a question about “free roaming” chicken. No leash is required, by the way. The answers to the questions are at the end of the questions.

1. Poultry labeled “free-roaming”

    a. Has been allowed access to the outdoors
    b. Is also known as free-range poultry
    c. Both of the above

2. The term “chemical free”

    a. Is required on products that contain no added chemicals
    b. Is also known as “natural”
    c. Is not allowed to be used on a label

3. Poultry labeled “fresh” should never have been at a temperature below:

    a. 40 F
    b. 32 F
    c. 26 F

4. Poultry labeled “frozen” should be at this temperature

    a. 32 F
    b. 10 F
    c. 0 F

5. Turkeys are labeled “hen” (female) or “tom” (males) to help indicate their

    a. Final cooking temperature
    b. Tenderness
    c. Size

6. Meat or poultry labeled “natural” means it

    a. Contains no artificial ingredients or added color
    b. Is only minimally processed
    c. Both of the above

7. Meat that is fully cooked and ready to eat is labeled

    a. Delicious
    b. Oven-ready
    c. Oven-prepared

How did you do? Look at the nutrition information at the end of the Crispy Oven-fried Chicken recipe in the column to the right.

Source: Julie Garden-Robinson,  Food and Nutrition Specialist, NDSU Extension Service.

Oven Fried Chicken
Oven Fried Chicken

Recipe: Crispy Oven-fried Chicken

1/2 cup nonfat milk or buttermilk
1 tsp. poultry seasoning
1 c. cornflakes, crumbled
1 1/2 Tbsp. onion powder
1 1/2 Tbsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. dried, crushed hot pepper
1 tsp. ground ginger
8 chicken pieces (4 breasts and 4 drumsticks), skinless
Paprika (as desired)
1 tsp. vegetable oil to grease baking pan

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Add 1/2 teaspoon of poultry seasoning to the milk. Combine all other spices with cornflake crumbs and place in a plastic bag. Rinse the chicken and pat dry. Dip the chicken into the milk, shake to remove excess, then quickly shake in bag with seasoning and crumbs. Carefully remove the chicken from the bag and evenly space chicken on the greased baking pan. Refrigerate for about an hour. Remove from the refrigerator and sprinkle lightly with paprika for color. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking for an additional 30 to 40 minutes or until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 170 degrees and the meat can be pulled away from the bone easily with a fork. The drumsticks may require less baking time than the breasts. Crumbs will form a crispy "skin." (Do not turn chicken during baking.)

Makes six servings. Each serving has 180 calories, 3.5 grams of fat and 9 grams of carbohydrate. All the answers to the labeling quiz are “c.” 


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