For our whole lives, we’ve been told that meat needs to be thoroughly cooked before it’s eaten, or else you’re putting yourself at risk of serious foodborne illness. But then we go to a fancy steakhouse and see someone order steak tartare, which is just chopped up raw beef! What gives? When is it okay to eat raw meat?
It depends on the type of animal, as well as the way in which it’s treated after it’s been slaughtered. The reason high-end steakhouses can get away with serving raw beef without getting anybody sick is because the beef itself is pristine and not home to any pathogens or viruses. You can’t be so sure about that when the beef has been wrapped in plastic wrap and has been sitting on a supermarket shelf for days. Same with raw fish; at sushi restaurants the quality of the fish is what’s called “sushi-grade,” meaning it can be eaten raw if properly handled.
For the most part, all red meat can be eaten raw if it’s handled the right way after it’s been slaughtered. It needs to be kept cold, finely chopped (like tartare) or thinly-sliced (like carpaccio) in order to avoid an off-putting texture, but as long as it’s fresh and clean (and made from whole muscle, not many different animals) it probably won’t make you sick. As for poultry and pork, the odds of it making you sick if not cooked are much higher. This is especially true of poultry, which should never be eaten if not cooked to at least 165 degrees.