Exploring the Raw Meat Debate: Beef vs. Chicken Safety


When it comes to consuming raw meats, there seems to be a divide between which ones are safe and which ones should be avoided. While some people enjoy sushi and raw beef dishes, they are often warned against eating raw chicken. But have you ever wondered why this is the case? In this article, we will delve into the reasons behind why you can safely eat raw beef but not raw chicken. We will also discuss the potential risks and necessary safety precautions for consuming these meats, so read on to learn more.

Why Can You Eat Raw Beef but Not Raw Chicken?

Raw meat has become a popular choice for many people in recent years due to the increasing popularity of raw food diets. While some meats, such as beef, can be safely consumed raw, others, like chicken, can pose serious health risks if eaten raw. So why is it that you can eat raw beef but not raw chicken? Let’s dive into the reasons behind this.

The Risk of Bacterial Contamination

The main reason why raw chicken is not safe to eat is due to the risk of bacterial contamination. Chicken is widely known to carry harmful bacteria, such as Salmonella and Campylobacter, which can cause food poisoning when ingested. These bacteria are commonly found in the intestines and organs of chickens and can easily contaminate the meat during slaughter and processing.

On the other hand, beef does not have the same level of bacterial contamination as chicken. This is because cows have a different digestive system and do not carry the same types of bacteria as chickens. While beef can still contain harmful bacteria, the risk is significantly lower compared to chicken.

Different Cooking Temperatures

Another factor that affects the safety of consuming raw meat is the recommended cooking temperature. Chicken must be cooked at a higher temperature than beef to kill any harmful bacteria present. According to the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), chicken should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) to ensure food safety. This temperature is necessary to kill any bacteria that may be present in the chicken, making it safe to eat.

On the other hand, beef can be safely consumed at a lower cooking temperature of 145°F (63°C). This is because beef has a different muscle and tissue structure compared to chicken, making it less susceptible to bacterial contamination. Therefore, you can safely eat raw beef without the need for high cooking temperatures, unlike chicken.

Different Handling and Processing Methods

The way in which raw chicken and beef are handled and processed also plays a role in their safety for consumption. Chicken is often processed at a much faster rate and in larger quantities compared to beef. This can increase the risk of cross-contamination and the spread of bacteria on the meat. Additionally, chicken may also be kept at higher temperatures during processing and transportation, providing an ideal environment for harmful bacteria to grow.

On the other hand, beef is usually processed and transported at lower temperatures, making it safer for consumption. The handling and processing methods for beef also involve stricter sanitation and hygiene practices to prevent bacterial contamination. This makes it a safer choice for raw consumption compared to chicken.

The Risks of Consuming Raw Chicken

Now that we understand the reasons why you can’t eat raw chicken, let’s dive into the potential risks involved in consuming it.

Food Poisoning

The most significant risk of consuming raw chicken is food poisoning. As mentioned earlier, chicken can carry harmful bacteria like Salmonella and Campylobacter, which can cause severe foodborne illnesses. Symptoms of food poisoning from raw chicken can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps. In some cases, these symptoms can be life-threatening, especially for young children, pregnant women, and individuals with weakened immune systems.

Salmonella Outbreaks

In recent years, there have been several outbreaks of Salmonella linked to the consumption of raw chicken. In 2018, over 90 people fell ill with Salmonella after consuming raw chicken from a popular fast-food chain in the United States. These outbreaks highlight the serious consequences of consuming undercooked or raw chicken and the importance of proper food handling and cooking techniques.


Another risk of consuming raw chicken is cross-contamination. This can occur when raw chicken comes into contact with other foods, utensils, or surfaces in the kitchen. The bacteria present on raw chicken can easily spread to these other items, increasing the risk of food poisoning if they are not properly cleaned and sanitized. It is essential to practice proper food safety and hygiene measures when handling raw chicken to prevent cross-contamination.

Safety Precautions for Consuming Raw Beef

While raw beef is safer to consume than raw chicken, there are still some precautions that should be taken to reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses.

Buy from a Reliable Source

If you are planning on consuming raw beef, it is crucial to buy it from a reputable and reliable source. Look for labels such as “grass-fed” or “organic,” as these often indicate stricter safety standards for the meat. It is also advisable to buy from a trusted butcher who sources their meat from responsible and safe farms.

Choose High-Quality Cuts

Not all cuts of beef are suitable for raw consumption. Look for high-quality cuts, such as filet mignon, sirloin, or top round, which are less likely to contain harmful bacteria. These cuts are often leaner and have less fat, reducing the chance of bacterial contamination. Remember to always check the texture and smell of the meat before consuming it to ensure it is fresh and safe to eat.

Proper Storage and Handling

Proper storage and handling of raw beef are crucial for preventing bacterial contamination. Make sure to keep the meat refrigerated at all times and consume it within a few days of purchase. When handling raw beef, always use separate utensils and cutting boards to prevent cross-contamination with other foods. It is also essential to cook the meat immediately after defrosting, as bacteria can grow rapidly at room temperature.


In conclusion, while raw beef can be safely consumed in moderation, it is not advisable to eat raw chicken due to the risk of bacterial contamination. The different digestive systems, cooking temperatures, and processing methods for these meats make beef a safer choice for raw consumption. However, it is vital to take the necessary precautions and follow proper food safety practices when consuming raw beef to minimize the risk of foodborne illnesses. If you are not comfortable eating raw meat, it is always best to stick to properly cooked meat to ensure your safety and well-being.

In conclusion, while raw beef may be safe to consume in some cases, raw chicken poses a greater risk for foodborne illness. This is due to the presence of harmful bacteria such as Salmonella and Campylobacter. Cooking chicken thoroughly is the best way to ensure its safety. However, if you do choose to consume raw beef or chicken, it is important to take necessary precautions, such as purchasing from reputable sources and following proper handling and storage techniques. By understanding the potential risks and taking proper safety measures, you can safely enjoy these meats without compromising your health. It is always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to consuming raw meats, and remember to prioritize your health above convenience or taste.

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