Ask Fred

Some of my staff said that, last winter, they got very cold in the preparation room where meat is stocked ready for use in the shop, and where we make sausages. They have asked if they can have an electric fire under the prep table this winter while they are making the sausages. Will this cause any problems? SBO'T

It sure will, and you should not allow it under any circumstances. First, it is a health and safety issue. Meat preparation rooms are generally damp and, on occasions, wet environments. The proximity of an open electric fire in such an environment should not be allowed. Second, the heat from the fire will obviously raise the temperature in the room. Prep rooms are cold for a reason, and that is to keep the meat at a minimum temperature.


Meat should be kept in the chiller before use and, while exposure to a higher temperature for a short period of time may not be a problem, you should not take the risk of leaving it in an environment for any period of time because it risks reducing its shelf-life.

Beef stored at 0°C will last for up to eight weeks, pork and lamb slightly less at about six weeks. Higher temperatures will reduce shelf-life.

Last, but by no means least, working in a warmer temperature may well impact on the quality of your sausage production. At a warmer temperature the various ingredients will not mix or combine with each other so easily.

The result is likely to be that the flavour of your sausages will seem less 'full' and they will lack their usual medley of flavours. Mixing meat at a warmer temperature will also reduce a mixture's natural adhesion to the sausage skin, increasing the risk of separation.

The golden rule is to keep the temperature of the meat for sausage at about 1°C. In warm weather or on a table with an electric fire underneath it, leaving the meat out at room temperature, even for an hour, will raise the core temperature.


I am raising some geese for sale in our farm shop at Christmas and want to know whether I should include an additional commercial feed to their current diet to fatten them up. At the moment they are about five months old and still fairly thin. I'm not sure how much meat they will produce. Mrs KW



You should be on track. Most geese will be ready for slaughter at seven or eight months. If you want to give them an additional, commercially prepared feed you should start about eight weeks before slaughter, as geese can be slow to adapt to new diets. The feed should fatten them with more meat. The shape of a goose is usually a good indicator of how much meat it will generate. A goose that is long and narrow with a lower lying breastbone will tend to carry more meat than a high breasted bird. Keep an eye on the goose's bag sac between its back legs when it looks full and hangs lower it is ready for slaughter. As a general rule a nine-kilo bird will kill out to about 5.5 kilos.



There have been a couple of cases of food poisoning recently and my environmental health officer wants to take samples of some pork pie for testing. What are my rights? WD



You should co-operate fully with the EHO. If you have any record of production times and dates and temperature recordings for the meat and other ingredients used then show these. You should also be able to tell him or her all your sources of supply for the various ingredients. And you should have a record of the cleaning regime for the production area where the pies were made. Most important is the fact that if samples are taken from your shop some should be left with you. Get them independently tested by a laboratory. Make a written note of all the conversations you have with your EHO about this matter immediately after a visit, including times and dates. Tell your solicitor what is happening.


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