Pink poultry has risks of salmonella, but is a professional gray zone
Here's where things get controversial. In our initial conversation with Hertz, she suggested that just like beef, most dangerous bacteria in chicken lives on the outside of the meat. Therefore many restaurants cook under the suggested temperature (165 degrees Fahrenheit) in order to maintain a juicy interior.
When we consulted the other nutritionists, both threw up red flags, citing a serious risk of salmonella and Campylobacter jejuni, which is slightly less dangerous but still bloody stool-inducing.
"If you go to the FDA website for risk assessment, they're never going to write this," says Hertz. "But if I bought my chicken from a nice local farm, I wouldn't be scared. If I was buying it from a grocery store, I would be a little more scared."
Her cavalier nature doesn't carry over into the classroom, where she teaches students the black-and-white food safety rules, but years dealing with the realities of professional cooking have made her less afraid of shades of pink. However she is quick to point out that salmonella is quick to mutate and that even more innocuous strains can turn deadly, a point echoed by Higgins who cited a staggering 2,300 different types of the bacteria.
Just like with beef, dangerous bacteria live on the outside of chicken or turkey and most preparation methods will cook the exterior to a safe temperature. Internally the FDA suggests heating to 165 degrees Fahrenheit, but Hertz has noticed many restaurants settle for 160 degrees Fahrenheit in order to maintain moisture levels without compromising safety. So pink chicken won't kill anyone, but even the most adventurous eaters are probably averse to a bloody bird based on texture and appearance alone.