But all that is going to end, as the USDA is now requiring beef that has been “tenderized” to be labeled as such. Soon, you’ll be able to see on the package if your favorite cut of meat has been violated by hundreds of razor sharp blades or needles in order to soften it up for your chewing pleasure.
What you need to know:
If you’ve ever gnawed your way through an unruly steak at a barbeque weekend, you know the value of a chewy, tasty cut. And so do producers of beef products. That’s why they invented mechanical tendererization. The problem is that it increases the risk of contamination with e-coli: the bacteria usually live on the outer part of the meat. When the meat is cooked, they die.
But when the meat is mechanically tenderized, some e-coli may reach the inner parts of the meat cut with the steel blade. Anyone who enjoys steaks rare or medium rare will bite into the middle of a cut that has not been thoroughly cooked, and thus at higher risk for e-coli poisoning.
It is virtually impossible to tell if a cut of meat has been mechanically tenderized just by looking at it with a naked eye, and thus the new labeling requirement.
What to do at the supermarket:
Soon you’ll be able to see a label on your meat that tells you if what mechanically tenderized. This meat needs to be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees to ensure all e-coli have been killed. This may also kill any urge to eat the steak, because it will be well done. But hey, at least now you’ll know if you are taking a risk or not.