Buying & Preparing Meat & Poultry

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Cooking methods for meat and poultry are generally divided into moist heat and dry heat methods.  Moist heat includes stewing, braising, poaching, boiling, steaming and frying.   Dry heat includes grilling, broiling, roasting, sauteeing and baking.

Different cuts are suited to different cooking methods and recipes. The links below can help you match cuts and cooking methods.

Preparing meat and poultry

Cooking methods can impact the nutrition in the products you serve. A few tips:

  • If your goal is to reduce sodium, choose a reduced sodium processed product.  When preparing fresh meat and poultry, which are naturally low in sodium, start with half the salt called for in a recipe.  Then taste before adding more.  Substituting other spices also can reduce the need for salt. 
  • If your goal is to reduce sugar or carbohydrates, choose products that minimize sugar-laden marinades and other sources of added sugars like breading.
  • If your goal is to reduce sugars or carbohydrates, choose products or recipes with little sugar in marinades and use little breading. Always read nutrition labels on sauces, condiments and marinades because they can be sources of sodium and sugar.

Fresh versus processed (prepared) meat and poultry products

All meat and poultry need to be processed in some manner before these are consumed.  Processing involves cutting, seasoning and cooking.  Sometimes, this processing occurs in a plant, sometimes in a restaurant and sometimes it occurs in the home kitchen.

cooking meat

Take a meatloaf, for example.  To prepare one, a consumer typically purchases ground meat (remember -- grinding is a form of processing) and adds bread crumbs, salt, pepper, spices, onions, eggs, seasonings and ketchup or tomato sauce.  Further processing is done in the oven, when the meatloaf is cooked (cooking also is a form of processing).

When a meat loaf is made in a meat processing plant, the same process is used. The same ingredients are used, though each processor may have a unique recipe, just as each consumer does.  Sometimes a processor precooks the meatloaf and sometimes it is provided raw and ready to be cooked.  But the result is the same.  While the meatloaf is made in a larger volume and on a larger scale, it’s as safe and wholesome as the meatloaf prepared in the home or restaurant.

In the case of a meatloaf or product processed at a plant, it must bear an ingredient list and a  nutrition label that tells the consumer the ingredients, calories, fat, sodium levels and other vitamins and nutrients. 

Meat and poultry processed in a plant have the benefit of convenience in today’s time-crunched world.  A mom who is on her way to soccer practice with her child may not have time to cook a roast, stew or even a burger. But ready-to-eat deli turkey or ham is packed with protein and ready to go.  Put it between some whole grain bread and add lettuce, tomato and cheese and you’ve got a balanced meal in minutes. 

The bottom line: we all process food before we eat it in some form or fashion and sometimes some of the work is done for the consumer at the plant. Fresh home-prepared foods and processed foods all can fit in a nutritious and balanced diet. 

buying meat and poultry



This downloadable brochure offers an easy to use chart to choose the correct cut for the recipe or cooking method that you plan to use.

On-line guide to pork cuts and cooking methods

Video ‘Tour ‘ of Pork Carcass

Video ‘Tour ‘ of Pork Carcass

On-line guide to lamb cuts and cooking methods

On-line guide to beef cuts and cooking methods

Video ‘Tour’ of Beef Carcass

Video ‘Tour’ of Beef Carcass



Find a beef recipe by cut or cooking method

Find a lamb recipe by cut or cooking method

Find a pork recipe by cut or cooking method

Find a pork recipe by cut or cooking method

Find a chicken recipe by cut or cooking method

Find a turkey recipe by cut or cooking method