Basics & Safety

Frequently asked questions about our pork, what’s in it, and where it comes from.

Buying Pork
Thawing Pork
Cooking Pork
Storing Pork
Feed and Antibiotics

Buying Pork

How do I pick out quality pork at the store?

Purchase pork that is a pinkish-red color, has marbling and white fat.

What should I avoid when buying pork at the store?

Do not choose meat that is pale in color and has liquid in the package. Do not choose any meat that has dark colored bone or pork with dark fat spots.

What is marbling?

Marbling is small flecks of fat found in the meat that gives it added flavor.

How do I calculate cost per serving, especially with bone-in cuts?

Some boneless cuts may seem more expensive, but actually are a better value because you are not paying for the bone. Cost per serving=Cost per pound/number of servings per pound.


Are all of your products gluten free?

All Prairie Fresh® products are gluten-free with the exception of the Prairie Fresh® boneless pork tenderloin rubbed with teriyaki seasonings.
** All labels should be read carefully for ingredients before consuming food products if known to have food allergies.

Why is pork a "red" meat?

Oxygen is delivered to muscles by the red cells in the blood. One of the proteins in meat, myoglobin, holds the oxygen in the muscle. The amount of myoglobin in animal muscles determines the color of meat. Pork is classified a “red” meat because it contains more myoglobin than chicken or fish. When fresh pork is cooked, it becomes lighter in color, but it is still a red meat. Pork is classed as “livestock” along with veal, lamb and beef. All livestock are considered “red meat.”

How large is a serving of pork?

A three ounce portion of pork is a serving and is about the size of a deck of cards.

Storing Pork

What's the best way to store pork before cooking?

You can store uncooked fresh pork tightly wrapped in butcher paper in the refrigerator up to four or five days. Freeze uncooked pork for no longer than one month if not vacuum packaged for the best quality.

How do I properly wrap my fresh pork to keep it in the freezer?

• Use one of these freezer wrap materials: specially-coated freezer paper (place the waxed side against the meat); heavy-duty aluminum foil; heavy-duty polyethylene film; heavy-duty plastic bags.
• Re-wrap pork in convenient portions: leave roasts whole, place chops in meal-size packages, shape ground pork into patties. Put a double layer of waxed paper between chops and patties.
• Cover sharp bones with extra paper so the bones do not pierce the wrapping.
• Wrap the meat tightly, pressing as much air out of the package as possible.
• Label with the name of the pork cut and date.
• Freeze at 0 degrees F or lower.

How long can I keep my fresh pork in the refrigerator?

Sealed, prepacked fresh pork cuts can be kept in the refrigerator 2 to 4 days; sealed ground pork will keep in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days. If you do plan on keeping the raw, fresh pork longer than 2 to 3 days before cooking it, store it well-wrapped in the freezer.

I have leftovers from a big roast, how long can I keep them?

Leftovers should be placed in the refrigerator within 1 to 2 hours of serving. Store cooked leftovers in the coldest part of the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Well-wrapped leftovers can be kept in the freezer for up to 3 months.

What about freezing ham?

The National Pork Board does not encourage freezing cooked ham, since it affects the quality and mouth-feel of the meat. However, leftover ham for use in soups or casseroles can be cut up into slices or cubed and stored in the freezer for 2 to 3 months.

What does the use-by or freeze-by date mean?

Prairie Fresh® Pork puts use-by/freeze-by dates on some packages at the request of the retailer. Some retailers choose to apply the date on the price label. You should use the product by the date listed on the package or on the price label applied by the retailer. If you can’t use the product by the date printed on your package, then you should freeze it for later use. Although Seaboard Foods does all it can to extend shelf, product freshness and safety cannot be guaranteed after the use-by date.

What length of time can I keep pork in the freezer?

You can freeze fresh pork roast, steaks, chops or ribs for up to 6 months if frozen in the original vacuum package. After that length of time, the product should remain wholesome but you can expect for the quality to be lower.

How long can I store ham or other smoked products in the refrigerator?

Whole smoked ham and whole ham slices can be stored in the refrigerator for 3-4 days or the use by date on the label. Smoked sausages, hot dogs, bacon and other luncheon meats can be kept for up to 7 days.

How do I know if food is spoiled?

If a food has been left between 40 and 140° F for more than two hours, discard it, even though it may look and smell good. Never taste a food to see if it is spoiled. “When in doubt, throw it out.”

How long can I leave out leftovers?

Bacteria grow most rapidly in the range of temperatures between 40 and 140° F, some doubling in number in as little as 20 minutes. Some types will produce toxins that are not destroyed by cooking. Pathogenic bacteria do not generally affect the taste, smell or appearance of a food. In other words, one cannot tell that a food has been mishandled or is dangerous to eat. If a food has been left in the “Danger Zone” (between 40 and 140° F) for more than two hours, discard it, even though it may look and smell good. Never taste a food to see if it is spoiled. “When in doubt, throw it out.”

Thawing Pork

Can I use the microwave to defrost/reheat pork that has been frozen?

The microwave and fresh pork can work together to produce delicious dishes. Pork conveniently and successfully defrosts and cooks in the microwave oven. It’s a great idea to cook cuts ahead of time, slice into convenient shapes and freeze to be reheated in the microwave later in the week. But as with many other foods, use traditional cooking methods for best flavor and texture results. Make sure to follow the microwave manufacture’s guidelines for defrosting meat. Always cook meat immediately after microwave thawing.

My roast isn't thawed completely, but I need to get my meal started. Can I still cook it?

It is safe to cook frozen or partially-frozen pork in the oven, on the stove or grill without defrosting it first; the cooking time may be about 50% longer. Use a meat thermometer to check for doneness. It is best if frozen pork roasts are cooked at an oven temperature of 325 degrees F. Do not cook frozen pork in a slow cooker.

Can pork be refrozen if it has thawed?

According to the USDA, once food is thawed in the refrigerator, it is safe to refreeze it without cooking, although there may be a loss of quality due to the moisture lost through defrosting. After cooking raw foods which were previously frozen, it is safe to freeze the cooked foods.

What is the best way to thaw frozen pork?

The best way to defrost pork is in the refrigerator in its wrapping.

Cooking Pork

Can I brown my fresh pork this morning, put it in the refrigerator and finish cooking it tonight?

Never brown or partially cook any meat.

Can I use a slow cooker to cook a cut of pork?

Yes. For all Prairie Fresh® products, including Cook-in Bag products, remove all packaging and place product in slow cooker. Follow your slow cooker manufacturer’s instructions for recommended cooking time.

To what temperature should I cook pork?

The USDA recommends to cook all raw pork steaks, chops, and roasts to a minimum internal temperature of 145°F (62.8 °C) as measured with a food thermometer before removing pork from the heat source. USDA recommends cooking ground pork patties and ground pork mixtures such as meat loaf to 160°F (71.1 °C) as measured with a food thermometer. For safety and quality, allow meat to rest for at least three minutes before carving or consuming. A hint of pink blush in the center is ideal for tender, juicy pork. We recommend you cook Natural Prairie Fresh Premium Pork to the USDA recommended internal temperature of 145°F.

However, for the best eating experience with Prairie Fresh Signature pork steaks, chops, and roasts, we suggest you cook to an internal temperature of 155-160°F. The proprietary process that infuses lean pork protein and fat in the loins, ribs and shoulder roasts allows the pork to baste in its own juices. Cooked to 155-160°F, rather than the lower 145°F recommended by USDA, we’ve found Prairie Fresh Signature pork products have the best texture and flavor.

It’s all a matter of personal preference to how you like your pork, but no matter what make sure you cook raw pork steaks, chops, and roasts to at least 145°F and let rest for at least three minutes to ensure food safety.

Why does the USDA recommend cooking pork steaks, chops, and roasts to 145°F, but I have a Prairie Fresh Signature label that says 155-160°F ?

The 145°F is the recommendation for natural pork steaks, chops and roasts, such as our Prairie Fresh Natural pork brand products. However, for the best eating experience with Prairie Fresh Signature pork steaks, chops, and roasts, we suggest you cook to an internal temperature of 155-160°F. The proprietary process that infuses lean pork protein and fat in the loins, ribs and shoulder roasts allows the pork to baste in its own juices. Cooked to 155-160°F, rather than the lower 145°F recommended by USDA, we’ve found Prairie Fresh Signature pork products have the best texture and flavor and unlike natural pork products, it’s guaranteed to be juicy and tender when cooked to this internal temperature.

What about trichinosis?

Because of modern feeding practices, trichinosis is no longer a concern. Although trichina is virtually nonexistent in pork, if it were present, it would be killed at 137° F. That’s well below the recommended end cooking temperature for pork, which is 145° F. Although your grandmother may have strongly encouraged you to overcook pork, that’s not necessary.

What foodborne organisms are associated with pork?

Pork must be adequately cooked to eliminate disease-causing parasites and bacteria that may be present. Humans may contract trichinosis (caused by the parasite, Trichinella spiralis) by eating undercooked pork. Much progress has been made in reducing trichinosis in grain-fed hogs and human cases have greatly declined since 1950. Today’s pork can be safely enjoyed when cooked to an internal temperature of 145 °F as measured with a food thermometer before removing meat from the heat source. For safety and quality, allow meat to rest for at least three minutes before eating.

What steps can I take to assure food safety while preparing meat?

• Keep your cooking area clean.
• Wash hands with soapy water before and after handling any meat products.
• Thoroughly wash all utensils, containers, cutting boards and work surfaces.
• Use separate serving plates for carrying raw and cooked foods.
• Discard leftover marinades – do not reuse.

Can safely cooked pork be pink?

Cooked muscle meats can be pink even when the meat has reached a safe internal temperature. If fresh pork has reached 145 °F throughout, even though it may still be pink in the center, it should be safe. The pink color can be due to the cooking method or added ingredients.

Antibiotics/Hormones/Feed/Minimally Processed

Are antibiotics used on the farm the same as those used in human health?

There are many different types of antibiotics. Some are used in both people and animals. Some are used primarily in animals and are not considered medically important to people – meaning they are not the antibiotics needed to treat the most challenging illnesses in people. In fact, of the antibiotics used in farm animals today, about one-third are called ionophores. Ionophores are not medically important; nor are they used in humans. At Seaboard Foods, we strive to minimize our use of all antibiotics, particularly medically important antibiotics, and are supportive of FDA’s policy to phase out the use of medically important antibiotics to promote growth and phase in more veterinary oversight.

Does Seaboard Foods produce any “no antibiotics added” pork products?

Seaboard Foods does not produce pork products labeled “raised without antibiotics.” We are committed to caring for our pigs in a responsible, safe manner, and sometimes the use of antibiotics is the right choice for the health of the pig or herd. Even niche pig farmers who raise pigs for the “raised without antibiotics” label treat sick pigs with antibiotics when necessary because it is the humane thing to do; they simply separate those pigs out and do not market them for the “raised without antibiotics” label.

Does Seaboard Foods treat pigs with antibiotics pre-emptively, even when they are not sick? If so, why?

Treating animals is different from treating humans. In humans, doctors treat the individual. In farm animals, veterinarians tend to treat the herd. On our farms, it is important that we prevent and control the spread of disease to keep our pigs safe and healthy and prevent animal suffering. We have found that it is often more humane and safer to prevent illness than to treat a sick animal that may later infect other animals. Plus, preventative doses generally are less potent and used for a shorter period of time than antibiotics for treatment purposes, which is another reason why farmers and veterinarians prefer to prevent than treat a disease.

Does Seaboard Foods use antibiotics for growth promotion?

At Seaboard Foods, we are committed to the responsible, judicious use of antibiotics, and are always looking for ways to preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics. We are supportive of FDA’s policy (Guidance 209) to phase out the use of medically important antibiotics in human medicine to promote growth and improve feed efficiency.

Does the use of antibiotics in pigs raised for pork contribute to antibiotic resistance?

Pig farmers and their veterinary teams recognize the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria is a public health concern. We take seriously our responsibility to work together with our counterparts in human medicine to preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics, particularly those that are medically important in humans. At Seaboard Foods, this includes using antibiotics responsibly with the oversight of our veterinary team. While there has been no proven link that use of antibiotics in animal production has resulted in a failure of antibiotic treatment in humans, we, as pig farmers, are committed to reducing future risk through responsible antibiotic use.

How are antibiotics administered to animals?

Antibiotics can be administered via feed, water or injection. We rely on all of these methods, depending on the number of pigs being treated, their age, the type of antibiotic and other factors. When treating pigs via feed, we make the feed a different color than the non-medicated feed, so it is easy to tell when a group of pigs is being treated and when the treatment has stopped. 

How can you tell a pig needs antibiotic treatment?

Our team responsible for animal care walks through our barns each day and is trained to spot early signs that a pig is sick. Droopy ears, irregular breathing or even something as subtle as not being as curious as usual or lying in a spot where they don’t typically rest, tell us a pig might be ill. When we spot symptoms, our animal care team immediately begins treatment, which can include the use of antibiotics, with that particular pig using supplies they carry with them in special backpacks. Our teams conduct onsite evaluations and look at specific symptoms to select the right treatment plan to target the specific illness. The quicker we can identify and bring a pig back to health, the better for that pig, the entire herd and the pork we produce.

Is pork from pigs raised using antibiotics safe?

Yes. The Food and Drug Administration oversees a stringent approval process for all veterinary medicines and antibiotics. In fact, the testing for antibiotics used in animals is the same as that for antibiotics used in humans, with the added requirement that they must be tested to ensure meat and milk from the treated animal is safe for human consumption. Furthermore, antibiotics approved for use in animals must be continuously re-evaluated and shown to be safe in order to remain on the market.

What safeguards are in place to ensure antibiotic residues do not end up in pork products?

At Seaboard Foods, our people are connected across every step of the way as we raise pigs to feed families. We own and oversee the sows, the pigs, the facilities that make our feed, the barns where we raise the pigs and the processing plants where our pork is made.

Whenever any medication is used on our farms, including antibiotics, it is immediately recorded. Knowing what antibiotic was used, when and for how long lets us know exactly how long we need to wait before the treated pig can go to market. This is called a withdrawal period and the FDA mandates the wait time. At Seaboard Foods, we always adhere to – and often exceed – the mandated wait time.

Not only do we have tight controls on antibiotic use on our farms, we have the ability to test for antibiotic residues at our processing facility very quickly. This allows us to have the test results prior to releasing any pork to our customers.

When does Seaboard Foods use antibiotics?

At Seaboard Foods, raising healthy pigs so we can deliver safe pork to our customers is the foundation of all that we do. We use antibiotics when it is the right decision to protect the health of our pigs. At Seaboard Foods, we use antibiotics to treat an individual sick pig, to control the spread of disease among pigs in a barn together if one or more has shown signs of illness, or to prevent the spread of sickness where there may have been exposure or sickness is likely to occur.

Why do you use antibiotics?

At Seaboard Foods, we are committed to raising healthy pigs to produce safe, delicious pork. Our veterinary teams develops and oversees a comprehensive total care plan, which includes proper housing, keeping our barns clean, feeding our pigs a balanced, nutritious diet and administering vaccinations – all designed to keep our pigs as healthy as possible. Our goal is to keep our pigs healthy and minimize the use of antibiotics, but there are occasions when we need to use antibiotics to control the spread of disease in our herds or to treat a disease when it is diagnosed. Without this treatment program, the pigs may suffer and the pork products from those animals may not meet quality expectations.

What does minimally processed mean?

As part of Natural Prairie Fresh® pork’s natural labeling, the USDA requires that it only be minimally processed. This means the product cannot be processed in a way that would fundamentally alter the raw product.

What do you feed your pigs?

Our nutritionists have developed grain-based proprietary rations designed to maximize nutrition at every stage of animal growth based on Southwest and Upper Midwest environments and genetic requirements. This helps optimize pork color, texture and flavor, while specially formulated vitamin packs improve health, creating nutrient-rich pork for consumers and improving shelf life, juiciness, texture and color. Prairie Fresh does not allow ruminant meat or bone meal in its feed rations.

Through stringent screening systems and working with only approved suppliers, the ingredients are guaranteed to be free of unnatural residues.

Major ingredients used in at least one of these diets includes:

  • Wheat
  • Corn
  • Grain Sorghum
  • Soybean Meal
  • Bakery Product
  • Salt
  • Phosphorus
  • Whey
  • Limestone
  • Trace Minerals
  • Vitamins
  • Amino Acids
  • Tallow

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