Why is it Safe to eat Raw Beef?

July 24, 2015 / Food / 0 Comments /
why is it safe to eat raw beef

Nothing beats a medium rare steak – its soft, juicy and simply delicious (to me anyway). Perhaps medium rare isn’t your thing, but there is nothing wrong with eating steak medium rare – still raw on the inside. People eat barely cooked beef everyday, and no one bats an eyelid. Say you want a medium rare pork chop, or ‘pink’ chicken breast on the other hand, and people gasp, shake their head and say ‘you can’t do that!’ They are right of course, but why is it safe to eat raw beef (and raw lamb for that matter), and not raw pork or chicken?

 

Food poisoning

All food comes with a risk of food poisoning to some extent, even salads. Truth is raw beef is only safer than eating raw pork/ chicken, and there still is a risk of food poisoning, just to a lesser extent. So the real question should really be why is raw beef less likely to give food poisoning than raw pork or chicken?

 

Bacteria

Beef meat is very dense, more dense than chicken or pork. In fact, beef is so dense that bacteria cannot penetrate beyond the surface. This means that as long as the surface of the beef is cooked properly there is an incredibly small chance of food poisoning. However, the skin of raw beef often does contain common pathogenic bacteria such as E. coli, which if not killed by cooking, can cause illness.

There is evidence that certain strains of bacteria can break down muscle fibres of meat, and penetrate the meat after 36 hours of being at room temperature. This shows that although fresh or chilled beef might be ok to eat raw rare, any beef which has been left out for any length of time should be thoroughly cooked! Even if the meat is left out less than 36 hours, the meat will not have been instantly chilled in the butchers, and would have most likely already spent some time at room temperature, allowing the populations of these bacteria to grow. Play it safe, and keep your beef in the fridge until you want to eat it.

ParasitesPicture of a parasite in larval stage. This parasite is often found in pork, but not in beef.

Beef is rather low in parasites, whereas other meats (pork in particular) can contain some nasty parasites such as Trichinella spiralis (sometimes known as ‘pork-worm’), Taenia solium (tapeworm) and Toxoplasma gondii. Despite food hygiene getting better and better, these parasites will still likely be present in the meat, and so pork needs to be cooked right through to avoid infecting yourself with these parasites.

Beef doesn’t contain these parasites and this is because cows have a much more complex digestive system compared to chickens and pigs. The cows digestive system might be too hostile for these parasites to survive. Also, pigs are scavengers, and eat pretty much anything, whereas cow (and sheep) are more fussy, and just like eating grass. With pigs eating anything and everything, they have a much higher chance of picking up parasites.

 

Is raw beef ever not safe?

It is safest to eat a cut of rare beef, such as a steak, rather than a processed food product such as a burger or minced beef. The reason for this is that a steak will have come from one cow, and the chances of this cow having a disease is very low. However, processed beef products contain many many cows. If just one of these cows is contaminated, it will contaminate the entire batch of mince. The chances are still low that beef mince will cause food poisoning, but not as low as eating steak.

 

Summary – why is it safe to eat raw beef?

Raw beef and lamb are safe to eat because the meat is very dense, and bacteria struggle to penetrate the surface. If the surface is cooked, then the middle should be safe to eat raw as long as it hasn’t been sat out at room temperature for a long time. Beef and lamb are also unlikely to contain any parasites due to their complex stomach system and fussy eating habits, whereas pigs are almost guaranteed to contain parasites.


Why do Dogs Eat Dirt?

January 20, 2015 / Animal Factoids / 0 Comments /
Dog eating dirt

Dogs will eat dirt (also known as pica) for a number of reasons, and they aren’t all that bad (although they do all suggest the dog isn’t quite happy). Here are the 4 main reasons that your dog will eat dirt:

1. Nutrition

Obviously, dogs are animals. Before domestication they were quite able to survive by themselves, and simply survived by just following their instincts, which are a result of many years of selective evolution One of these these instincts is to eat dirt when they are lacking certain minerals. This may seem odd, but the soil is full of minerals, and so actually makes quite good sense – good old evolution. There are problems with eating soil though (see below) so you need to address this problem.

What to do: Compare the nutritional profile of the dog food you are using with other (more premium) brands. Perhaps the one you are feeding them isn’t quite up to scratch. Research the specific nutritional needs of your specific dog. A Jack Russell, for example, will have different nutrition requirements to a German Shepard. It may be worth talking to a vet about it if you aren’t sure.

2. Worms (and other parasites)!

Dogs might eat dirt because they have worms or parasites!

Yes, various parasites make for some strange behaviour in animals. They can turn ants into zombies, cause rats to stop being scared of cats, cause fish to reveal themselves to predatory birds, and yes, they can cause dogs to eat dirt. The reason for all this odd behaviour is usually to help the parasite progress through infancy through maturity and help reinfect the animal. Long story short, eating the dog could have eaten something on the floor which had a parasite, and the parasite is causing the continued behaviour.

What to do: When was the last time you had your dog wormed? The most common parasite which causes dogs to eat dirt is the hookworm, so its a good idea to treat the dog for worms, and see if it stops the behaviour.

4.Liver, Kidney, Central nervous system (CNS) diseases

Why a dog eats dirt because its kidneys are not working properly is beyond me. Perhaps it is linked to the nutrition, or the possibility of a parasite. In any case, dogs have been known to eat dirt when they have a serious disease, such as a liver, kidney or CNS disease.


What to do: Look out for other signs of illness. Is the dog being sick, not eating food, acting out of the ordinary (aside from dirt eating). If the dog is otherwise quite happy and healthy, it may not be this cause, but it to be on the safe side, it might be a good idea to take it to the vet.

 

3. Obsessive-compulsive/ Depression/ BoredomDogs can eat dirt because they suffer from obsessive compulsive behaviour.

Yes, dogs, like humans can suffer from behavioural problems. Dogs can suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorders which can manifest themselves as over grooming or eating dirt. They can also suffer from depression, and can even suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) in the same way humans can. Dogs can even get bored, and in the same way a bored child will play with electricity sockets and eat worms when they are bored, dogs will eat dirt.

What to do: With obsessive-compulsive disorder, you can try and train it out of them. Go on walk with the dog on a lead to prevent them from eating dirt, and if they do eat dirt have a water sprayer handle to gently spray their face with cold water (you don’t want to hurt them, just teach them).

If the cause is depression, the vet may prescribe anti-depressants, but this isn’t a great way to go. You could always try and cheer your dog up!

If its boredom, then simply pay the dog more attention, get it a new toy and go form more walks.

 

Is dirt eating bad for dogs?

This is a good question, it could provide nutrition, but sadly, it can also cause infection, damage teeth, and if they swallow something nasty, they could have digestive issues. I’ve heard some horrible stories about dogs eating plastic bags, or even just bubble gum. So yes, generally speaking it is bad for dogs to eat dirt. It is a sign that there is a problem, which could be as simple as needing a new brand of food for them, but could equally be something more serious.

This Youtube video will give an overview of the information found on the article tab. If you want to know more about the topic, or want to see where the information came from, have a read of the article after you watch the video.


Dogs might eat dirt because they are under nourished, have a parasite infection, suffer from a disease, or have behavioural problems. It is worth trying to identify the exact cause, because it could be an indication of serious illness.