The Color of Meat: Pink Poultry and Pork 

Are you eyeing a slice of pink-tinged turkey with suspicion? Wondering if it’s safe? While you shouldn’t rely on the color alone to tell, pink poultry does not automatically mean it’s undercooked.  The only way to tell for sure, though, is to check the internal temperature with a food thermometer. Turkey (and all poultry) should be cooked to a temperature of 165°F (74°C). 

Why is some turkey meat pink?

A protein called myoglobin causes the red or pink hue in meat. The more myoglobin in a piece of meat, the redder it is. Poultry has much less myoglobin than beef, for example. Myoglobin concentrates in muscles used for movement, like walking or flying. Chemical changes during cooking cause the pinkish color. According to the USDA, safely cooked poultry can range from white to pink to tan.

What about pork?

Pink pork is permissible, too.  In fact, in 2011 the USDA lowered the recommended internal temperature for whole cuts of pork from 160°F (71°C) to 145°F (63°C). The agency also recommends letting pork sit for three minutes before eating.

Is it done yet?

The best way to make sure your meat is cooked to a safe temperature is to use a meat thermometer.  Taking a turkey’s temperature can be tricky. When cooking a whole turkey, check the temperature of the innermost parts of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast.

If you have questions, call the USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline at 888-674-6854 to talk with an expert.