Is Eating Raw Meat Well Tolerated by Humans?
If you’ve ever eaten sushi or steak tartare, then you know that it is possible for humans to eat raw meat. These dishes are specially prepared, however, and are exceptions to the general rule that meat must be cooked to be consumed safely by humans. Sushi is raw fish and steak tartare is raw steak. If you happen to like sushi and want to eat raw salmon, that’s an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. As long as that raw fish is caught, processed and prepared in a way that protects against food poisoning, that’s a very healthful choice.
Inherently, there’s not a reason that eating raw meat in and of it would automatically create any problems. What you would need to think about would be contamination in terms of pathogens like E coli or other bacteria. Meats, such as beef, pork, and chicken, can contain harmful bacteria and parasites. If eaten raw, these bacteria and parasites could make you really sick.
Chicken is obviously the worst because it carries salmonella. Sushi and sashimi can be OK. Tuna tartare or steak tartare are traditions and are eaten as delicacies, but you’re still going to have the risk of ingesting pathogens. With raw meats, you always have a heightened risk of contamination.
When you cook meat properly, though, any harmful organisms are killed during the cooking process, allowing you to eat the cooked meat safely. So how do animals eat raw meat? Some animals have stomach acids that will kill bacteria and parasites. Others do indeed get sick from eating raw meat, but they don’t have any other choice. They have to eat, and they don’t have the capability to cook their food.
Also consider that predators immediately eat their fallen prey. Up until that point, the prey’s immune system worked to keep the prey healthy. However, meat that humans consume is processed in factories and not eaten immediately. That means the raw meat has the potential to be exposed to a variety of germs before we purchase it from grocery stores.
Scientists don’t know for sure when or why humans started cooking meat. Some speculate that humans evolved to cook meat because it allowed them to get the calories and nutrients they needed more easily.
While raw meat has more calories and nutrients than cooked meat, human jaw muscles and digestive organs have to work harder to chew and digest raw meat. The cooking process helps to break down tough proteins, making it easier for humans to eat and process. Some scientists believe eating cooked meat was an important step in the evolution of the big, complex human brain.
If you’re curious about how long you need to cook meat, it varies depending upon the type of meat. Ground meats, such as beef and sausage, generally need to be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 160º F (71.1º C). Fowl, such as chicken and turkey, usually should be cooked to at least 165º F (73.8º C). Fresh beef and pork in the form of steaks, chops, and roasts should be cooked to at least 145º F (62.7º C).