Should you buy chicken at the grocery store or farmers market?

WASHINGTON – Is chicken more likely to be contaminated if it is sold at a grocery store or a farmers market?

That’s a trick question, says food lawyer and expert Mary Beth Albright.

“Every meat has some contamination on it,” she says.

But a new study suggests that raw chicken purchased at local farmers markets are more likely to contain harmful bacteria such as salmonella.

Penn State researchers tested 100 raw chickens from a farmers market and 100 raw chickens from a grocery store. About 90 percent of the farmers market chickens tested positive for harmful bacteria, while only about half of the store-bought chickens tested positive.

Albright says the study is so small that consumers should take the findings with a grain of salt.

“Meat from the farmers market is still extremely safe, extremely fresh and usually sourced locally,” she says. “For people in the D.C. area, the farmers markets around here are very well policed by the people who run them and no one’s going to be selling warm chicken.”

Albright says it’s more important that you buy from a place you trust.

“If you’re buying meat and poultry from the farmers market, you really need to make sure that the person is pulling the chicken out of a cooler, not out of a handbag,” she says.

To cut the risk of food poisoning and cross-contamination, wash hands and counter tops thoroughly before, during, and after handling meat.

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