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Live Animal and Bird Markets: Staying Healthy and Safe from Germs

Live Animal and Live Bird Markets

New information shows an increase in outbreaks of Salmonella infections linked to meat and poultry bought from live animal and live bird markets in the United States.

Live animal and live bird markets are places where customers can buy a live animal or a live bird to be slaughtered for food to take home. They are found in many cities around the United States, serving customers with diverse ethnic, religious, and cultural backgrounds.

Salmonella and Raw Meat and Poultry

Live animals, such as cattle, sheep, goats, and swine, and live poultry, such as chickens, ducks, and geese, can carry Salmonella and other germs on the inside and outside of their bodies, even when they appear healthy and clean. Salmonella germs are shed in animal feces (poop) and can contaminate their bodies, including fur, skin, and feathers. These germs can get on raw meat or raw poultry from these animals during slaughter and processing.

Recently, several foodborne illness outbreaks caused by Salmonella germs have been linked to meat or poultry purchased from live animal and live bird markets. More than half of the people who got sick in these outbreaks were children aged 5 years or younger.

Photo: Live chickens in cage

In the outbreaks, people may have gotten sick in different ways:

  • Picking up germs in market environments
  • Eating improperly cooked meat or poultry from markets
  • Improperly handling raw meat and poultry at home and cross-contaminating areas at home

Follow these steps when shopping for, handling, and preparing your food:


At the Market

  • Clean
    • Wash your hands with soap and water right after visiting areas where live animals and birds are kept.
    • Even healthy-looking animals and birds can carry germs on their body and can spread them to their environment.
  • Separate
    • Do not enter animal or bird areas and do not perform the slaughter and processing if:
      • You have a weakened immune system
      • You are pregnant
      • You have children ages 5 years or younger with you
    • Do not eat or drink in areas where live animals and live birds are kept.
    • Do not carry carcasses or raw meat or poultry in the same container as other food items.
  • Chill
    • Keep raw meat and poultry carcasses or parts cold during transportation.
    • Carry food in clean containers that can keep the contents cold, such as a plastic cooler or insulated bag.
    • Refrigerate raw meat and poultry within 2 hours of purchase or sooner.

At Home

  • Clean
    • Wash your hands with soap and water before and after contact with raw meat and raw poultry.
      • This is especially important before touching your own food, preparing baby bottles, or taking care of babies or children.
    • Wash utensils, counters, and cutting boards with hot, soapy water before and after contact with raw meat and raw poultry.
    • Clean and sanitize coolers or bags that held carcasses, raw meat or poultry, and other parts. Click here to learn how to properly sanitize.
  • Separate
    • Cut-up or otherwise handle meat and bird carcasses in an area separate from areas where other foods are prepared.
    • Keep raw meat and raw poultry away from fruits and vegetables and other foods that are ready-to-eat.
    • Washing raw poultry before cooking it is not recommended. Bacteria in raw poultry juices can be spread to other foods, utensils, and surfaces.
  • Cook
    • Use a food thermometer to make sure that meat and poultry are cooked to safe temperatures.
      • Raw beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, chops, and roasts: Cook all raw beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, chops, and roasts to a minimum internal temperature of 145 °F (62.8 °C) as measured with a food thermometer before removing meat from the heat source.
        • For safety and quality, it is important to allow meat to rest for at least three minutes before carving or consuming.
        • For reasons of personal preference, consumers may choose to cook meat to higher temperatures.
      • Ground meats: Cook all raw ground beef, pork, lamb, and veal to an internal temperature of 160 °F (71.1 °C) as measured with a food thermometer.
      • Poultry and ground poultry: Cook all poultry and ground poultry to an internal temperature of 165 °F (73.9 °C) as measured with a food thermometer.
  • Chill
    • Keep raw meat and poultry at 40°F or below until you are ready to cook it.
    • Refrigerate cooked meat and poultry within 2 hours (or within 1 hour if the temperature is 90°F or higher).
    • Freeze raw meat and poultry if you do not cook it within 2 days of purchase.

What is being done to help prevent illnesses?

Several local and state public health and animal health departments are jointly educating consumers at live animal and live bird markets, including:

  • Displaying posters and handing out flyers and magnets with safe food handling messages in multiple languages
  • Collaborating with local community groups
  • Educating market owners and employees
  • Inspecting markets with newly-established inspection guidelines

Live animal and live bird markets must meet U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) sanitation requirements and prevent product adulteration. Regulatory oversight by state agencies varies.

Your Community, Working for You

In 2012, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) partnered with live animal markets in South St. Paul to launch “Healthy Markets”, an educational campaign to promote healthy behaviors at live animal markets.

For many communities, obtaining meat and poultry directly from a live animal market is an important cultural tradition, but close contact with live animals and handling raw meat poses certain health risks. “Healthy Markets” promotes simple things customers can do to protect their health and the health of their family members. Learn more at the Minnesota Department of Health website.

More Information for Consumers

More Information for Public Health Professionals

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