Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
22 May

Raw Meat

1329901325 5bc4f49298It’s about the most primal, albeit not necessarily attractive, image you can conjure: dirty, disheveled, muscular cavepeople in rough animal skins and furs partaking of the uncooked prize from the latest hunting endeavor (or perhaps another predator’s leftovers). Fast forward to today. Our more “civilized,” better dressed, contemporary selves follow the maître d’ and sit down to intricately painted dinnerware and linen napkins to partake of, you guessed it, raw meat. And then pay big bucks for it, to boot. Sushi, steak tartare, carpaccio: they’re considered delicacies of sorts. And while sushi has caught on in the last twenty years or so, Saveur still calls steak tartare a “forbidden pleasure.”

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For some of us, raw meat of some variety is regular fare. For others, well, it just gives us the willies. Our culture, among the biggest meat lovers, seems to have the hardest time envisioning it in its more “natural” state. We have grills the size of Texas, after all. The closest we usually get to the primal side is using a spit. But raw meat in some form or another has a hold on virtually every other culture. Raw fish dishes, in particular, are common in many Asian cultures. A number of Middle Eastern cultures enjoy recipes with raw goat meat. Inuit cultures eat raw fish and reindeer as a regular and primary part of their diet.

Proponents of raw meat claim that any kind of cooking reduces the healthfulness of meat. And then there’s the issue of cooking-associated toxins like HCAs and AGEs. Yet, let’s face it. We don’t live in primal times. Conventionally raised and mass processed meats carry a higher risk of bacterial contamination (think E. coli and salmonella among others), and that’s serious business.

But not all meats carry the same threat. Those who eat raw meat as a regular part of their diets often seek out small farms and game butchers to ensure healthier conditions and the likelihood of healthier meats to begin with. Sushi connoisseurs choose restaurants that have strict “sushi grade” standards for their fish. The FDA doesn’t regulate that label, but it does require that all raw fish other than tuna be frozen at temperatures cold enough to kill parasites. Some chefs freeze the meat to 70 degrees below zero and claim there’s no detectable difference in taste or texture.

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Harriet V. Kuhnlein, Professor of Human Nutrition at the Centre for Indigenous Peoples’ Nutrition and Environment at McGill University in Montreal believes that raw meat is a healthy option, provided it’s clean: “Every time you process or cook something — anything — you are likely to be losing nutrients at every step. As long as this meat is still microbiologically safe, it is at its best raw or frozen fresh.”

There are a few groups who are strongly advised against eating raw or undercooked meats: pregnant women or those trying to conceive, young children, “the elderly” (not our word), patients receiving chemotherapy or those who are taking immunosuppressant medications, and people with weakened immune systems.

So, what to do if you’re interested in giving raw meat a try? Source matters. We suggest you shop carefully. Ideally, you should know the farmer and the processor. When going raw, cleaner is even more important. Put your meat in deep freeze if you want to have that added peace of mind about parasites. (Freezing is acceptable to most raw foodies, but they do contend that freezing kills the natural enzymes of foods.)

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Consider using alcohol based dips and especially marinades (port wine, vodka, etc.) that may help kill bacteria. Citrus based marinades are thought to be somewhat helpful in this regard, but don’t count on them to do as much as a good ounce of alcohol. Better to mix the two if your taste calls for it. Finally, if the head is willing but the stomach is weak, try searing the meat and leaving the middle uncooked. Add a flavorful dip, and you’ve got yourself the best of the primal and contemporary in one tasty tidbit. We’ll call it primal fusion.

So, what do you think of raw meat? Thoughts, questions, recipes, raves?

jelleprins, Alexandre Chang, obscene pickle, ulterior epicure Flickr Photos (CC)

Further Reading:

Safe Cooking Temperatures

How to Eat Enough Protein

Dear Mark: Pondering Protein

Hunting Ethics

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You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. I went tot he store tonight and bought a half pound of Atlantic salmon…cut the skin off in a very thin slice…cubed it and ate it raw. Very good. I am ok with eating raw beef, but I like it room temp…not cold.

    Brian wrote on December 22nd, 2010
  2. I think you might want to avoid Atlantic Salmon, AFAIK, it’s farmed, which means things like sea lice and the pesticides used to get rid of them, lack of access to what Salmon normally eat, toxins from the feed, artificially colored, lower Omega 3′s, though it has higher fat (which means worse O3:O6 ratios), etc.

    Go for Alaskan instead if you can get it.

    RayDawg wrote on January 24th, 2011
  3. Love my steak blue rare, with nothing more than a quick flash-sear in a scorching hot, bacon-greased cast iron skillet, some kosher salt and black pepper dusted over the surface before throwing it in for a few seconds on each side. Flash-sear the outside, barely warm in the middle. I cook good, locally pasture-raised pork chops the same way. RAWR indeed. Tartare is maybe my favorite treat in the world. Raw fish, cold-cured pork in the form of prosciutto, etc. I haven’t been able to look rare poultry in the proverbial eye, but haven’t seen much indigenous cultural support for that anyway, so will happily enjoy long, slow-roasted birds. Otherwise bacon is just about the only meat product I want cooked crispy (mmm… bacon).

    Now I’m struggling with the notion of seeking pregnancy, and my natural inclination to eat meat as raw/rare as possible. Do I truly need to start cooking the sh!t out of my good, locally-raised, all-pastured, grass-fed beef, eggs, and milk? The conventional advice is to avoid everything from soft cheese to lunch meat, but if primal eating is good for me, shouldn’t it be good for baby, too, assuming primal sources of clean, whole foods? Maybe my taste and needs will shift in pregnancy and I’ll start craving well-done steak?

    No pro in their right mind in this litigious “conventional wisdom” society would advise me positively in this direction on the record, but where can I find realistic info on true risk?

    Kate wrote on March 23rd, 2011
    • but if primal eating is good for me, shouldn’t it be good for baby, too, assuming primal sources of clean, whole foods?

      There’s a comment above from a woman who had a uterine problem which caused her to bleed excessively, thus losing iron, which gave her cravings for blood, essentially. Menstruation itself has been implicated in uterine cancer in that this periodic sloughing of the uterine wall encourages excess cell-growth, and statistically, the more cells that have to compensate for a wound, the likelier they are to make mistakes in copying and cause cancerous growth. So, though I don’t know how exactly pregnancy works, which is pretty stupid actually, I doubt you’ll find yourself craving raw flesh as you will not be menstruating, but of course I don’t know the psychology or etiology of cravings and you may anyhow.

      My guess, from very light and scattered reading, is that fetuses and infants cannot handle certain enzymes or whatever found in soft cheeses and honey. I myself don’t believe it — I’ve known Russians who swore by honeyed sweets given them as tots, and I find it hard to believe French toddlers are never given pieces of brie or something by their parents. This would presume that entire human cultures prior to the advent of American conventional wisdom kept their infants and their soft cheeses (or honey) rigorously separate. Doesn’t add up.

      Do as much as research as you can and make sure your meat was treated better than 90% of humans, slaughtered and handed over to you as hygienically as possible. After a good freeze, I believe it will be safe for your spawn.

      I mean, this is all about what our Upper Paleolithic ancestors ate. It isn’t like they themselves ate raw meat and cooked the rest for their kids.

      Marshall Lentini wrote on July 28th, 2011
  4. At least in the past several thousand years (in civilized cultures) most peoples have eaten grains. There’s evidence of flour from 30,000 years ago. Few people in the past could afford to eat meat. The animals were worth more alive. Only the rich were able to eat them. That’s not the case today, but it was back then. When you rewind back further to hunting and gathering you see more meat eating, but we’re not the same kind of people we were back then. Our brains were mostly the same, but other things have changed.

    I would say we’re moving away from meat eating for a variety of reason, but I don’t think it will ever go away completely. Soon we will grow meat artificially but from there it’s all about dietary concerns and whether it’ll even be needed or not.

    I would be careful eating it raw. We’re not equipped to eat it that way. If you look at predators in the wild the differences between them and us are many. It’s not just about their capability to hunt and kill better than we do (disregarding our higher intelligence and better use of tools) but it’s also about their digestive track and taste buds among numerous other differences. Their body just is not the same and you need to be careful.

    The reason eskimos ate raw meat safely was because of the freezing temperatures (reduces bacterial growth) and the salt water (causes bacteria to shrivel up or something) and also because they ate their food faster.

    Even the military recommends cooking it to if in a survival situation because the odds are not in your favor to eat it raw. It just doesn’t make sense.

    It makes a lot more sense to cook meat and have a balanced diet that includes lots of fruits and vegetables, anti-inflamattories like ginger, exercise, sleep well, manage stress levels so they’re healthy, eat the walnuts and almonds at lunch, put those berries in your oatmeal, eat some fish, eat some fruit our taste buds are perfectly made to taste it. And so on. A balanced diet is the most important thing of all and most people get too much dairy and meat and processed carbs and not enough veggies and fruits and unprocessed/unrefined grains like oatmeal. The problem is not that we’re not eating raw meat, it’s that we’re not balanced in how we live our lives.

    Jon wrote on April 11th, 2011
    • It won’t go away because we’re not herbivores, and not built to subsist entirely on herbivorous foods.
      Our digestive tract (not “track”) is that of a predatory omnivore, not that of a ruminant or hindgut fermenter. Survival situations where a soldier may not have experience carefully handling and cleaning a carcass, and likely to eating wild animals which may or may not be carrying parasite loads (etc) are different than normal life, where we can know our meat is clean and healthy, fed on a biologically-appropriate diet, and handled with care to prevent cross-contamination. It just makes sense. But hey–no one’s forcing you to eat your meat rare or raw. Are they?

      As far as “not being the same people” we were before the agricultural revolution, well, you’re mostly just wrong, there. There are a few genetic changes, but no major alterations in our digestive tract, dentition, essential nutrient profile, or really any other marker for determination of optimum diet. “Unprocessed” and “unrefined” grains are no more appropriate food for homo sapiens sapiens than they are for canis lupis or sus scrofa. Grains simply aren’t food for anyone but birds. Not cows, not dogs, not pigs, not people.

      Incidentally, vat meat is not anything like close to mass production. Though it’s possible to replicate the cells, there still is no way to replicate the texture, or the flavor, or the nutrient profile of a grass-fed cow on the hoof, or wild venison. You can keep your lab-grown frankenfood, no thanks. People need animals for survival. I don’t want to live in a world where our crops are dependent on petroleum fertilizers and industrial processes, and our meat comes, shapeless and flavorless, from a vat of agar. Count me in on clean air and warm sunshine and sunny grass pastures and blueberry patches inhabited by geese and ducks and chickens.

      mixie wrote on April 11th, 2011
      • Bravo!

        He had some real points — re freezing temp and biological differences — but the rest is homily. What about the theory that mankind was shaped in the crucible of rapid climate variation in the Afar, where a plethora of bipedal hominids flourished and went extinct? They would not have had constant access to the SWPL omnivory that’s held up by Pollan & co. One should not mistake Whole Foods for nature. The truth is that these urban browsers want to push their mode of life upon us because we are a threat to them. Any loss of citizenry is to the state (a dense agrarian political entity) a loss in profits. Ten-thousand fewer consumers of grain and “fresh veggies” are so many tons of grains and produce gone to waste. This is the same Western agrarian-capitalist war against ancient modes of life the American state wages on the pastoralists of Afghanistan, for example, or McDonald’s in Nepal and Bhutan, or the forcing of Bedouin tribes onto fixed plots or cities.

        Marshall Lentini wrote on July 28th, 2011
        • What a load of paranoid B.S.; no one is pushing their mode of life on you, unless you let them. The way of life today is ‘marketing’; if you don’t buy into it, you won’t be a victim. There is no ‘agrarian-capitalist war’ (what inflammatory phraseology!) against pastoralists (who are nearly as far from hunter-gatherers as agriculturalists), someone just wants their land.
          Tone it down a bit.

          BillP wrote on May 15th, 2012
    • Why are you on a Paleo site recommending grains, even if it is unrefined?

      Tianna wrote on January 3rd, 2012
  5. I want to start eating raw meat I know that thats how we were meant to get our energy, every time i have meat in a meal i am just disappointed and dont even want to finish the meal, this may sound weird to some but the only meat i ever want to eat is raw. does anyone know a good place to start? I have a very strong stomach and rarely get sick any ideas? oh and i do not have access to grass fed just normal grocery store ( i can get grass fed elk though but it would be a month or so) please help I want to taste what meat is supposed to be. thank you
    -kirsten

    Kirsten wrote on October 5th, 2011
    • The teeniest morsel of raw lambs liver (beef is a much stronger flavour). You mentioned elk – I’ve not had that, but I did get a very nice piece of venison liver which had a stronger flavour than that of the lamb, but it was still very pleasant. Believe me, the first bite is the hardest and then you wonder why you hadn’t tried it before!

      Ground/Minced meat is very nice too and a great place to start – just make sure it’s very fresh, of course, due to bacterial contamination worries.

      In both cases, however, I would not buy meat for raw consumption in a normal grocery store. Probably better to wait for your elk.

      Lori wrote on October 25th, 2011
  6. I enjoy the odd bit of sushi or smoked salmon, raw lambs liver, home-made beef jerky or corned beef and some ground/minced beef from the local butcher (who pretty much makes it to order on the day, so not much risk there.) I also start the day with an egg-yolk and viili (similar to yogurt) smoothie.

    And though perhaps the salmonella risk of raw chicken might be dealt with by source/preparation (and salmonella is a known bacteria with standard treatments), I do think that raw pork is simply too dangerous.

    I read up about trichinosis (the parasite that can infest raw pork) and it’s a very real risk. The parasite is too small to see and by the time you know you have a problem, it’s possibly too late – and probably harder to treat than a bacteria. (Bear meat has the same risk, btw.)

    Lori wrote on October 25th, 2011
  7. Check out http://www.rawpaleodiet.com

    I’ve been eating raw meat for some time. Fish, beef, veal, lamb, buffalo, eggs, organs and muscle meats.

    I feel great. It’s incredible..

    Alex wrote on January 19th, 2012
  8. I have been on a raw paleo diet for almost 8 years now…I eat nothing but raw meat and raw/fermented produce. In all of the years on this diet I have never gotten sick from eating raw meat. I have a genetic condition called Grave’s, an aging disease. I almost died twice from it before getting on this diet. At 32 I looked in my 40′s. Now I am 45, and people seriously think I am the same age as my 23 year old daughter. All my wrinkles disappeared, I have perfect body tone and elasticity, perfect skin, incredible energy, excellent health, and have no signs of aging.
    My disease is in complete remission, and the goiter and bulging eyes I had due to the Grave’s disease are completely gone.
    Living food creates a living body, dead food leads to cellular death and decay. It is seriously not good to treat the meat with substances to lower bacterial levels, or freeze at extreme temps…the point of living food is it is ALIVE. The only way that things like salmonella become dangerous, is if they are previously heated, as it changes their molecular structure, and makes them dangerous. Seriously, salmonella is an actual building block of life, and is in the prokaryote family…the very building blocks that help compose you!
    I do make sure my meat is not treated with carbon monoxide, which most grocery stores do. I get my meat from Safeway, and my organ meats from a local natural butcher. I am currently experimenting with raw pickled meats.
    Raw chicken and turkey are great marinated in lemon juice and soy sauce. Raw beef is great on it’s own, seasoned, marinated, or whatever floats your boat. Raw fish is great marinated or on it’s own. There are a lot of meats to try and experiment with.
    Though pregnant women, sick people, children, etc.,are warned against eating it, they are the people that need it most. Give your animal when they are ill nothing but raw meat, and see how fast they recover. My one cat was chronically ill with parasite issues and liver problems…but on a diet of raw chicken he is is now without any of these issues. He is almost 12, and looks no more than 5 or 6…beautiful coat, and he never gets ill.
    There is nothing I miss about cooked food…it is weird eating dead things.

    Shadow wrote on January 26th, 2012
    • Hi I was just interested in hearing more about your experiences with eating raw meat. I’m about to start taking it up and would love to hear about favorite recipes, organ meats and just raw meats in general. Thanks. -Chris

      Chris wrote on August 26th, 2012
    • I curious to learn more about salmonella that way you talk about it. Can you help?

      Michael wrote on April 19th, 2013
  9. I used to eat raw meat, I would leave it out in the air for a couple hours or days depending on the ambient temperature and never had any problems with sickness. In fact, I found the meat to be at it’s tastiest with just a little white mould forming on the surface. I stopped eating raw because if I had any cooked protein I would throw up or have diarrhea for a couple days. This made social eating a bit of a problem as not many people want to be near you when you chow down on an aged piece of raw meat (it does smell a bit funky).

    Qommon wrote on January 29th, 2012
  10. Raw meat?
    Look that.
    http://www.wewant2live.com

    shaterox wrote on January 30th, 2012
  11. How can you tell if you get a parasite problem ie what are the symptoms

    Michelle wrote on February 21st, 2012
  12. My buddies and I used to go to HEB, buy a pound of raw salmon, have the butcher cut it up into cubes and we would dip it in soy sauce and eat it. I stopped when I learned that the salmon was not sushi-grade. From reading Mark’s article, I now know that “sushi-grade” is not an FDA-regulated label, so I might try it again.

    Someone was talking about pastured poultry. Is that different from “free range?” If not, “free range” is another term that is not regulated by any governing body and, oftentime, merely means that the poultry have access to the outdoors. Said access could theoretically only be a trapdoor, and “outdoors” could theoretically be a 4ft by 4ft fenced-in, grassless area.

    Throckmorton Q. Dirktwister wrote on August 3rd, 2012
  13. To jet : You were getting dark circles under your eyes because your liver was going into cleanse mode. Dark circles and bags under the eyes are caused by liver congestion.
    Parasites only occur if eating a lot of cooked, unhealthy, or carb based foods(grains, potatoes, winter squash, beans,sugar, etc.). Parasites are the bodies clean up crew when your body is so backed up/toxic, you cannot eliminate and digest properly. Parasite levels are higher in countries that eat raw meat, because most of these people eat a lot of carbs/cooked food as well. I never recommend eating raw meat unless a person eats carb free and mostly raw. Before I got on the raw paleo diet, I had a reoccurring parasite issue, and would treat for them about once a year…now I do not get them at all.
    To the pregnant lady…children born of raw paleo mothers turn out incredibly healthy. I know a woman on the raw paleo diet that recently had a baby…excellent health, and at 8 months is now eating ground up raw meat as well…he loves it! If I could go back in time, that is what I would have done with my two children. I am blessed my daughter is on the same diet as me as well, but she wishes I had started her as a child.

    Shadow wrote on August 19th, 2012
  14. I used to like my meat and fish undercooked and now don’t cook it at all. Living in Australia, I am able to purchase kangaroo mince for less than $9 per kilo, and now eat it straight out of the packet. I often eat raw fish or raw chicken. I also have raw free range eggs, a delicious easy snack, simply punching a hole in each end of the egg and sucking the delicious contents into my mouth. I particularly enjoy these foods after doing heavy manual labour, or after a heavy gym workout. I recover more quickly by eating these foods. I also eat raw vegetables. I love the wide variety of enjoyable combinations of flavours and taste sensations with delicious colourful fresh crisp crunchy juicy vegetables and herbs or ginger etc. I feel very much alone in my enjoyment as the people who I know seem to be so entrenched in the popular belief that uncooked food is unsafe etc. So I usually eat alone. I have learned that people dislike the smell of raw broccoli or raw cabbage on my breath, so confine myself to more socially acceptable foods at times. Last night I went out with friends to a restaurant, and enjoyed smoked salmon salad. No dressing. Just two pieces of lemon. And some of my friends liked the look of that when the waiter brought it to the table. It was the first time in years that I actually really enjoyed the food served at a restaurant! I was happy to leave a tip for the waiter, and to thank the restaurant staff for a delicious meal.

    Peter Pullar wrote on September 15th, 2012
  15. been eating raw meat since I was a child, only three years ago did I get really sick (not from raw meat, but from a McDonalds) and my stomach hasnt been the same since, unfortunatly.
    I am working on becoming completly well again.

    I still eat raw liver weekly, with no ill effects, drink blood, eat raw heart and kidney and muscle meat and have so far not had a problem.

    po wrote on January 7th, 2013
  16. There is technically no more danger in eating raw meat then there is in eating a steak medium/medium-rare. In order for parasites and bacteria (if they exist in the meat) to be killed off, an internal temperature of 145°F must be achieved. This just doesn’t happen in any meat cooked less than well done. I was a chef for over 10 years and would often eat beef tenderloin raw while I was trimming it and to this day have had no adverse effects from eating properly handled raw meat. (I once got food poisoning from cooked chicken wings…but found out later the meat had been mishandled by a well meaning hostess and then cooked in under heated oil with too many wings in the fryer. This is food toxicity. Quite different than bacteria.). In any event, the social stigma and publishers basic desire to cover their butts from lawsuits due to the (mostly) uneducated masses mishandling their food, has blown this whole issue WAY out of proportion.

    Ryan wrote on April 3rd, 2013
  17. I hope more of you will get past your fears. Those of us eating raw meat feel GREAT. In 3 years I’ve never gotten sick — even better, I’m in the best shape ever. The fear of germs is unfounded. That in itself is a great freedom to realize.
    This youtube video addresses the fears: http://youtu.be/Z9g_EGbnfxo

    Michael wrote on April 19th, 2013
  18. I have eaten raw meat almost every day for years!
    Without going into detail, bacteria and parasites in and on good quality (grass-fed, unprocessed, and organic) meats are actually good for you! Among other things, they have a positive effect on our immune systems. Unfortunately, cooking kills these beneficial organisms. Other reasons to eat your meat raw include the presence of biophotons in raw meat, the absence of, or greatly lower quantity of heat-created toxins (think AGEs, PAHs, and HCAs, just to name a few) in raw meat, and, of course, the presence of enzymes in raw meat.
    For more in depth info you should read: ‘The Raw Paleo Diet & Lifestyle: why I eat my meat raw and why you should too!’ It’s an ebook, available on Amazon [Kindle] and smashwords.com: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/366528

    Yak wrote on October 18th, 2013

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