Food Safety from Farm to Fork

I am working with the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance’s Digital Voices Council through September 2017. This post includes a link to a blog that was sponsored by the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, but are expressions of my own. 

When you think about food safety you may think of employee hand washing practices in restaurants or other food service areas. Or maybe food recalls also come to mind.

You may be very surprised to learn that farmers continuously consider food safety measures too. Careful food safety measures are taken on the farm, in food delivery and processing, storage and handling. The food safety measures you practice in your kitchen are similar to the standardized safety measures used on the farm. Farmers have standards of practice just like any other industry, and continuously evaluate their practices to ensure the health and safety of their animals and to deliver a safe food product. 

How Farmers Maintain a Safe and Healthy Environment on the Farm

Brad Greenway is a South Dakota pig farmer and reports that livestock farmers are always focused on several key areas to be sure food is safe from farm to plate. Biosecurity is one of them.

Biosecurity on the farm refers to management practices that are designed to minimize or prevent infectious bacteria and diseases making their way onto a farm. This includes managing or limiting the number of people and vehicles that are on the farm, cleaning barns and equipment, immunizing animals, and monitoring and maintaining the environment where the animals live.

Brad is also a member of the National Pork Board’s Antibiotic Task Force and says farmers recognize the need to stay on top of this issue.  For instance, on his farm, he highly monitors the use of antibiotics among his pigs and only uses them when needed.

“If one or a few piglets seem listless or sick, they are treated with the right antibiotic, at the right time, in the right dose,” says Brad. “This is simply the right thing to do.”

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), antibiotic resistance is a world-wide issue of concern which encompasses the health care industry, health care workers, individuals, policy makers, and the agricultural sector. Farmers are highly aware that antibiotic resistance is a hot topic.

Food Safety at the Plate

Just as farmers care about food safety on the farm, you should do so in your kitchen. Keep your kitchen clean and be aware of proper food handling.

  • Check for proper cooking temperatures. Did you know that pork no longer needs to be cooked “well done”? Today’s pork can be safe by cooking to an internal temperature of 145 degrees F. The lower cooking temperatures make for a more delicious, juicy and tender end product too. Use a food thermometer to check doneness.
  • Understand sell-by dates. Food waste is a growing issue, by understanding these use by and sell-by dates, you’ll waste less food and money.
  • Always wash cutting boards in hot soapy water. Avoid “cross contamination” by never using the same knife, utensil or cutting board that you’ve cut meat on for other food (such as vegetable, fruit or bread).
  • Store foods properly. An easy rule is “keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot”. Bacteria begins to grow after about two hours, so if you are serving a buffet or having a picnic, be sure to refrigerator or keep leftovers in coolers at that time.
  • Always wash your hands frequently when handling raw or cooked food.

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