If perusing the grocery store aisles and shopping for the biggest sales is engrained in your weekly schedule, you might want to sit down before you keep reading.

After all, how much of a “bargain” are you getting if that discounted chicken breast you bought for dinner contains potentially harmful additives? Saving money is important — but so is your family’s health. 

That’s why we’ve taken a closer look at some supermarket malpractices to give you the information you need to make the best choice for your body and budget. Here are five facts to keep in mind the next time you decide to hit up the meat counter:

Grocery stores can legally thaw and refreeze meat multiple times.

Every time meat is thawed and refrozen, it affects the cellular structure, which can compromise flavor and texture when ultimately cooked. Legally, grocery stores can thaw and refreeze meat up to 14 times — and there’s no way of knowing how many times the meat you purchase has been through this process. There’s also no way of knowing how long the meat has been frozen since grocery stores often buy in bulk from overseas suppliers. 

“Fresh” beef may contain carbon monoxide.

While the above fact may cause you to want to only seek out “fresh, never frozen” beef, there could be additional risks involved with this approach. If you’ve ever wondered why grocery store beef maintains that bright red color so well, the answer is unfortunately tied to a common practice of treating the beef with carbon monoxide to slow oxidization. In fact, up to 70 percent of grocery store meat may contain added carbon monoxide — and while ingesting is a much lower risk than inhalation, this statistic is still undeniably unsettling. 

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Your turkey might contain harmful staph bacteria. 

We know, it sounds nauseating – but these are the facts, according to a 2011 study in the Journal of Clinical Infectious Diseases that found dangerously high levels of staph bacteria in grocery store meats in the United States, including MRSA, which has the potential to be lethal. Among the meat tested, turkey was found to be the most dangerous, with nearly 80 percent of products found to contain staph bacteria. Since researchers concluded antibiotics overuse was the reason for this alarming statistic, seeking out antibiotic-free meat is one way to instantly lower your risks of contracting an infection. 

Meat expirations dates are fairly arbitrary. 

If you’re someone who plans your meals around expiration dates, this may be a hard pill to swallow: in most cases, they’re pretty arbitrary. In fact, at least 30 states don’t regulate date labeling and most grocery store meat departments are left up to their own labeling. This could mean that, as long as the meat “looks” OK, stores can even choose to re-label and push expiration dates back. Yikes. 

You never know what you’re getting in ground beef.

Not only can supermarket ground beef contain meat from potentially hundreds of cows, but it usually comes from older, retired cows — so the meat isn’t nearly as tender marbled. Unless you ask for the meat to be ground fresh at the grocery store, there’s no way to know what a package of ground beef includes. 

Before you swear off all animal protein for good, remember: there are other ways to order meat in a completely safe, quality-driven format that doesn’t require a physical shopping cart. At Market House, we make sure that all of our products are directly from the source – i.e. independent farmers and suppliers – to ensure that the meat you’re getting is of the highest pedigree (no factories involved). Read more about what makes us a “cut” above the rest.

When it comes to grocery store meat, it’s important to ask yourself one key question: is it worth it? 

Browse our selection of Midwest-raised cuts here.

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