Red meats contain protein, zinc and iron, which are nutrients needed by pregnant women, but eating improperly prepared red meats may increase the risk of bacterial food-borne infections. Red meats include beef, pork and lamb products. If you're pregnant, speak to your doctor about eating red meat during your pregnancy.
Red meats get their color from myoglobin, which is a protein that supplies muscle tissue with oxygen. It's similar to the hemoglobin in red blood cells, but myoglobin doesn't circulate in your blood, it stays in the muscle tissue. The meat from older animals contains more myoglobin so it's generally darker red than meat from young animals. Animals who are more physically active also produce darker red meats.
Steaks, Chops and Roasts
Steaks, chops and roasts can be broiled, grilled, pan-fried or roasted. The U.S. Food and Drug Administrations suggests cooking beef steaks and roasts, and lamb chops and roasts to at least an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit to reduce the risk of food-borne illness in pregnant women. All types of pork products need to be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a meat thermometer to measure the temperatures when you cook red meats.
Ground Beef and Processed Meats
Ground beef has more surface area that can be exposed to bacteria so it is at a greater risk of being contaminated than other cuts of meat, so the FDA suggests cooking ground beef to at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a meat thermometer instead of relying on the color of cooked ground beef. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says the color can be misleading because under certain conditions, cooked ground beef can still be pink in the middle, even when it is well-done.
Storing Red Meats
Raw red meats should be stored in the refrigerator at a temperature below 40 degrees Fahrenheit and used within a few days of purchase. Be careful not to cross-contaminate raw red meat with fresh produce and ready-to-serve foods. Red meats can also be frozen for several months. Cooked red meat should be served promptly, or kept hot at a temperature above 140 degrees F. Leftovers can be kept safely in the refrigerator for several days.