It seems like every other day the news is running a story about food poisoning. Salmonella looks as common as a cold in winter. When meat goes off it can absolutely make you very sick, and we’ve all seen those signs on restaurant menus that say they won’t serve you a medium rare burger. How concerned should we really be about under-cooked and raw meat?
Will eating raw meat kill you? Not all raw meat is dangerous, though it can be. Steak tartar is raw meat, so are prosciutto, sushi, and many other dishes. Raw meat can kill you but that doesn’t mean it will. The risks depend on the source and preparation. Almost anything could kill you if it’s contaminated.
Some paleo-dieters believe in eating raw meat, though there is a great deal of debate about what is healthy. Certainly, there is enough evidence to argue for either side. Carcinogens and oxidized fats from cooked meats are a major downside to cooking. Meanwhile, the ease of digestion and significantly higher amounts of digestible protein in cooked meats would seem to point to the benefits.
Why are the dangers of raw meat?
Contamination, like rancidity, can absolutely cause illness and even death. The risk in farm-raised food animals appears greater than that of free range animals. Regardless, there are dangers that can be avoided with simple cooking. Whenever you can, use refrigeration and modern sanitation techniques.
With so much information available it seems almost inexcusable to get meat-poisoning in a modern kitchen. Unfortunately, we don’t stress the importance of kitchen safety in this way, instead focusing on sharp edges and hot surfaces (which are also important). Perhaps it’s difficult to consider what we can’t see, but clearly, we need to spend more time self-educating on invisible health issues.
In a SHTF scenario, a lot of those easy solutions can go out the window in a heartbeat. The inherent risks of raw meat are more prevalent. When you aren’t able to wash surfaces you cut on or do other daily tasks we’ve all become accustomed to for sanitizing, it may be a better idea to cook first and ask questions later until you can be more certain. Children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems should avoid all raw meat when possible.
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What You Can’t See
Animals bred for food can carry bacteria like E. coli and salmonella. Eating raw meat is the highest risk you can take for exposure to these problems in pork, beef, and chicken. Predictably, cooking is the easiest way to kill these bacteria.
Chicken and pork have additional risks. Campylobacter, found in chicken, causes diarrhea in the infected. While diarrhea doesn’t necessarily kill you, it can lead to potentially deadly complications like dehydration in extreme cases. Meanwhile, eating raw pork might be risking Trichinella. Though modern farming practices make it far less likely, having a parasitic worm because of your diet is not going to help you survive.
What are the benefits of raw meat
When you consume raw meat, the main benefit is that heat-sensitive vitamins and enzymes haven’t yet been destroyed. Some say it is great for reproductive health and hormones because of the increased B vitamins, though the evidence isn’t conclusive. Vitamin C in meat is all but completely destroyed by heat, but it may be possible to avoid scurvy with raw consumption.
Oysters are packed with quality nutrients. Raw fish is great for you if you are careful to avoid fish that is at high risk for mercury exposure. You’ll find a ton of B12, A, C and E along with selenium, calcium, iron, and zinc.
What meats are the safest raw?
Fish is generally considered safer than some meats when freshly killed. This includes oysters. In general smaller fish are safer than the larger, and bottom feeders are the least desirable for raw consumption.
Crabs, shrimp, and lobsters are bottom feeders and they tend to be somewhat inedible before boiling. It’s probably best not to try eating crustaceans raw.
Beef and lamb would be the second choice. When you eat raw meat, the texture or ‘mouth feel’ is supposed to be excellent. Make sure your cuts are whole and either very fresh or properly cooled.
Once you grind any form of meat the risk is exponentially higher. Grinding makes the surface area that is exposed much larger, thus the higher risk for bacteria.
Pork and poultry are at the bottom of the safety list for raw consumption. Both come with additional risks that make them much more likely to cause problems.
Don’t eat ground poultry or pork raw. Unless you are dying it’s still probably not worth the risk. These would be the most likely to cause you problems.
Don’t Eat Raw Deer
In light of the facts, I am including deer specific information. Some deer have been suffering from a wasting disease that is called the Zombie Deer Virus. Norway, Finland, and South Korea have also had reports of this issue, though it seems to be a bigger problem in North America.
While it has not yet made the leap to another species, scientists do warn that the potential is there for it to do so. Maybe… just don’t hunt deer if you don’t want to start the apocalypse, at least until the doctors figure it out.
You may think this is a joke, but it is a real problem. The symptoms include drooling, wasting away, fearlessness and aggression toward humans. So-called Zombie deer haven’t been studied extensively. However, scientists are attributing this to a prion disease. Oddly enough, that is a protein related problem. Don’t panic yet, but consider not hunting deer if SHTF, for your own safety. Absolutely, do not eat them raw!
How Can I Prepare and Preserve Raw Meat Easily
Right after you kill it is generally a safer time to eat it raw. It hasn’t had time to ‘go off,’ but there are other ways to use fresh meat that you can’t cook. Refrigeration is lovely if you have power and certainly cooling and freezing will save your hard-won hunting successes so you can eat them. Freezing even helps kill bacteria to a limited degree (Not as well as cooking).
If you have no powered refrigeration you can DIY cool storage. It may not work quite as well as electric cooling, but it will help.
You can always dehydrate or salt your raw meats. Learning these skills isn’t difficult. You don’t need a whole lot of equipment. Additionally, very little preparation is needed. Canning will take more knowledge and preparation. If you learn the skill, it can also be an effective way to keep your raw fresh meat edible longer.
Try to remember that killing more than you can eat, preserve, store and carry is a waste of energy in a survival situation. Excess meat will draw other predators to you. Keep it to what you can use.
A plethora of delightful and healthy dishes include raw meats. So long as you treat your meat with reasonable caution, there is no reason that you shouldn’t eat raw meat. Cooking meat may make it easier to digest, but it also destroys the vitamin C content. While some things are riskier than others, raw meat that is fresh or properly stored can make a fine addition to your diet.
How are we meant to eat our meat? Should we have our oysters raw or should we be chewing on the crispy chicken skin al carbonara (blackened)? It’s interesting to consider. In the absence of solid evidence, either way, how we are meant to eat meat is only an exercise in theory and hypothesis. You can eat decent quality raw meat if you want to do so. Just do us all a favor and avoid venison until more studies have been done on the zombie deer.
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Symptoms of eating raw meat? This common question is incomplete. Food poisoning symptoms can include diarrhea, nausea, stomach cramps and vomiting among others. Food poisoning is not the only possible problem from consuming raw meats.
Should I eat meat every day? Meat, like all foods, is healthy in moderation. It is an excellent source of necessary proteins and fats. Healthier meats that are free range and/or organic, are the best for you. If you are an adult male with a fairly sedentary lifestyle up to 0.36 grams per pound of bodyweight is healthy. Naturally, this varies depending on lifestyle, age, size, physical activity, and gender.
Can I survive on just meat? It might be possible to live on meat alone. Make certain to eat fermented, raw and include both fat and organs. No conclusive evidence seems available for how healthy it would be. There are people who have done so for years, however little evidence of their physical health is available. In most cases, the meats they consume are free range and organic.
*A Special Case- The Inuits of North America is one group known to practice a mostly carnivorous lifestyle with little plant material eaten. Not much hard scientific data exists about their dietary habits and how it affects health. However, they supplemented their diets by eating the stomach contents of caribou for additional plant nutrients.