I have something to tell you about chicken, and I'm not sure you want to hear about it. But here goes. Consumer Reports says 97 percent of chicken is covered in bacteria -- "worrisome amounts of bacteria," that is. There! I tried to blurt that out as quickly as possible just to get it over with because YUCK. Practically all chicken is crawling with sick-making bugs. Now you know, and there's nothing you can do to un-read what you just read. I'd like to apologize. Now let's talk about the implications of this disturbing news.
Consumer Reports tested 316 raw chicken breasts, including chicken labeled antibiotic-free (20 percent) and organic (8 percent). And while they admit that it's unrealistic to expect all chicken on the market to be as pure as the driven snow (and honestly, driven snow isn't even that pure these days), they still call these findings "disturbing." I wonder if the testers are sleeping at night. Or still eating any meat at all. The magazine recommends cooking your meat thoroughly and washing your hands frequently.
I always operate under the assumption that my chicken is at least a little contaminated to be on the safe side anyway. But this is the most disturbing part: Half of the tainted chicken was contaminated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Eek!
More from The Stir: Washing Your Chicken Before Cooking It Is a Seriously Risky Move
So what can you do to have your chicken and live to eat it, too? Here are a few tips.
1. Wash your hands like crazy. Here's what I do: When I handle raw chicken, first I wash my hands vigorously with soap and hot water. Then I handle the chicken. Then, before I touch anything else, I wash my hands vigorously with soap and hot water. Any time I go to touch anything else after touching raw chicken, I scrub my mits. But remember regular soap is fine: Avoid antibacterial soap.
2. Wash everything else that touches the chicken. After I cut the chicken, I'll wash the knife and cutting board with soap and hot water.
3. Don't touch anything else while handling chicken. Seriously, don't pick up the salt shaker with your germy hands. Don't touch the refrigerator door handle, or a spoon, or the stove, or your child's face, or anything. Wash your hands before you pick it up. Better yet, before you start with the chicken, put a pile of salt and whatever else you're seasoning the chicken with in a little bowl so you don't have to touch anything else while handling the chicken.
4. Cook to 165 degrees. Now I'll admit I'm less vigilant about this. But just in case you wanted to know, chicken should be cooked to a temperature of 165 degrees if you want to kill most of the bacteria.
Were you aware that bacteria was this common on raw chicken?
Image via the food passionates/Corbis