Most of the poultry and game you find on sale in the UK has been gutted before you buy it. However, there are perhaps times when you will buy a bird that you need to 'clean out' yourself.
If a bird has been gutted, this means the intestines and other internal organs (the innards) have already been removed.
However, farmers who slaughter fewer than 10,000 birds a year are allowed to sell poultry and farmed game birds that haven’t had their innards removed.
You might find this type of poultry and farmed game birds on sale directly from a farm, or in a local market. Wild game birds, such as pheasants, that have not been gutted, might also be on sale.
Risks from gutting poultry and game birds at home
Removing the guts and other internal organs from poultry and game birds in the home carries the increased risk of contaminating kitchen worktops and equipment with harmful bacteria.
If a bird's stomach or intestine ruptures during removal, bacteria can spread from the contents of the guts. This could contaminate the meat - or other foods - and cause food poisoning.
It is always better to ask your supplier to gut the poultry or game bird for you, when you buy it. If this is not possible you should take these precautions:
- use an insulated cool bag to transport the carcase home
- get the poultry or game into a fridge quickly - ideally within one to two hours
- store raw poultry or game away from cooked food
- put raw poultry or game at the bottom of the fridge to avoid it dripping on to other food
- always wash your hands, using warm water and soap, after handling raw meat, poultry or game, and before touching other food
- clean the preparation area thoroughly before and after you start gutting the bird
When gutting poultry or a game bird
- handle and remove the innards well away from other foods to avoid contamination of worktops and other foods
- use disposable cloths, paper towels and disposable gloves whenever possible
- the guts should be removed carefully from the rear of the bird and the heart from the neck
- avoid rupturing the intestines and spilling the contents of the gut
- keep work surfaces and equipment clean and dry during use
After gutting poultry or game
- don't wash poultry or game-bird meat because any splashing might spread bacteria around the kitchen
- wipe blood clots off the bird with paper kitchen roll
- dispose of removed innards and any other inedible material carefully in a waste bin - place it in a sealed container before disposing of it
- wash utensils and work surfaces thoroughly in warm soapy water after use and, if possible, disinfect them
- wash your hands thoroughly in warm soapy water after handling raw poultry and dry thoroughly