Hygiene and Food Safety When Cooking for Pets

Whenever we prepare food for our pets it is incredibly important to make sure you avoid making anyone ill. Often the problems arise when cooking, preparing and storing meat. A few basic precautions will ensure everyone stays healthy and happy.

Today the meat that we prepare and eat is not as fresh as it once was. Animals are often kept intensively in overcrowded conditions. Meat travels for long distances, then sits on supermarket shelves or in the butcher before sale. There are many points during the pathway from paddock to plate where your food can be contaminated with bacteria like Salmonella or E.coli.

It is estimated that meat contains 1,000-10,000 bacteria per gram and while many dogs and cats can tolerate low numbers of bacteria in their food, it doesn’t take much to tip the balance and a very messy, smelly gastroenteritis to enter the household. No one wants that, so please follow the following safety recommendations when preparing meat for your pets:

  • Make sure you wash your hands thoroughly before and after preparing meat products. Scrub, use soap and clean for at least 20 seconds- don’t forget under those nails!
  • Use a clean chopping board which is used only for meat preparation.
  • Chopping boards, utensils and benches should be thoroughly cleaned before and after food preparation.  A hot dishwasher cycle is ideal, scrubbing or dilute bleach.
  • Only feed your pets meat fit for human consumption.
  • Don’t use utensils for raw foods, then cooked foods without washing first.
  • Avoid using dirty or cracked eggs.
  • Store raw and cooked foods separately.
  • Chicken is more high risk raw (particularly areas that have come into contact with the innards and faeces of the animal), but many vets recommend raw chicken necks or wings for dental health.
  • Food should be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 75°C (you can use a meat thermometer to check).
  • If food is not to be eaten immediately it should stay above 60°C or cooled, covered and placed in the fridge or freezer.
  • When serving food after freezing or refrigeration, it should be reheated until it is steaming and hot all the way through (it can be cooled before serving).
  • Food should be discarded if it has been left out in the temperature ‘danger zone’ between 5-60°C (ie. not in the fridge/freezer) for more than 4 hours.
  • Mince, sausage, whole chicken and eggs should be thoroughly cooked until no pink is seen and the juices run clear.
  • When using the microwave, ensure food is covered to trap the steam and ensure thorough cooking. Also stir and rotate food as microwaves cook very unevenly.
  • Avoid feeding your pet cooked bones or pet meats that contain sulphur preservatives.

We hope these tips have helped you make your kitchen a safe place for your family and your pets. Home cooking for our pets is extremely rewarding and done properly is healthy and safe. Enjoy, and Bon Appetit!