Meat Information:


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For other uses, see Meat (disambiguation).
Varieties of meat

Meat is animal flesh that is used as food.[1] Most often, this means the skeletal muscle and associated fat and other tissues, but it may also describe other edible tissues such as organs and offal.[1] In the Anglospheremeat is generally used by the meat packing industry in a more restrictive sense—the flesh of mammalianspecies (pigs, cattle, lambs, etc.) raised and prepared for human consumption, to the exclusion of fishpoultry, and other animals. Usage varies worldwide by culture, and some countries such as India have large populations that avoid the consumption of all or most kinds of meat. Game or bush meat is also generally distinguished from that produced by agriculture.

The consumption of meat has various traditions and rituals associated with it in different cultures such as kosher and halal and its production is generally regulated by state authorities as well. This article is mainly focused on that process from primary production to consumption.




The word meat comes from the Old English word mete, which referred to food in general. The term is related to mad in Danishmat inSwedish and Norwegian, and matur in Icelandic, which also mean 'food'. The word "mete" also exists in Old Frisian (and to a lesser extent, modern West Frisian) to denote important food, differentiating it from "swiets" (sweets) and "dierfied" (animal feed).

One definition that refers to meat as not including fish developed over the past few hundred years and has religious influences. The distinction between fish 

and "meat" is codified by the Jewish dietary law of kashrut, regarding the mixing of milk and meat, which does not forbid the mixing of milk and fish. 

Modern Jewish legal practice (halakha) on kashrut classifies the flesh of both mammals and birds as "meat"; fish are considered to be parve, neither 

meat nor a dairy food. The Catholic dietary restriction on "meat" on Fridays also does not apply to the cooking and eating of fish.

The Latin word carō "meat" (also the root of 'carnal', referring to the 'pleasures of the flesh') is often a euphemism for sexual pleasure, effected from the 

function performed by fleshy organs. Thus 'meat' may refer to the human body in a sensual, or sexual, connotation. A meat market, in addition to simply 

denoting a market where meat is sold, also refers to a place or situation where humans are treated or viewed ascommodities, especially a place known 

as one where a sexual partner may be found.

"Meat" may also be used to refer to humans humorously or indifferently . In military slang, "meat shield" refers to soldiers sent towards an enemy to draw 

fire away from another unit.


Paleontological evidence suggests that meat constituted a substantial proportion of the diet of even the earliest humans.[2] Early hunter-gatherers 

depended on the organized hunting of large animals such as bison and deer.[2]

The domestication of animals, of which we have evidence dating back to the end of the last glacial period (c. 10,000 years BP),[2] allowed the systematic 

production of meat and the breeding of animals with a view to improving meat production.[2] The animals which are now the principal sources of meat 

were domesticated in conjunction with the development of early civilizations:

  • Sheep, originating from western Asia, were domesticated with the help of dogs prior to the establishment of settled agriculture, likely as early as the 
  • eighth millennium BC.[3] Several breeds of sheep were established in ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt by 3500–3000 BC.[3]Presently, more than 200
  •  sheep breeds exist.
  • Cattle were domesticated in Mesopotamia after settled agriculture was established about 5000 BC,[4] and several breeds were established by 2500 
  • BC.[5] Modern domesticated cattle fall into the groups Bos taurus (European cattle) and Bos indicus (zebu), both descended from the now-extinct 
  • aurochs.[4] The breeding of beef cattle, cattle optimized for meat production as opposed to animals best suited for draught or dairy purposes, began 
  • in the middle of the 18th century.[6]
  • Domestic pigs, which are descended from wild boars, are known to have existed about 2500 BC in modern-day Hungary and in Troy; earlier pottery 
  • from Jericho and Egypt depicts wild pigs.[7] Pork sausages and hams were of great commercial importance in Greco-Roman times.[7] Pigs continue 
  • to be bred intensively as they are being optimized to produce meat best suited for specific meat products.[8]

Other animals are, or have been raised or hunted for their flesh. The type of meat consumed varies much in different cultures, changes over time, and 

depends on different factors such as the availability of the animals and traditions.

Modern agriculture employs a number of techniques, such as progeny testing, to make animals evolve rapidly towards having the qualities desired by 

meat producers.[21] For instance, in the wake of well-publicised health concerns associated with saturated fats in the 1980s, the fat content of UK beef, 

pork and lamb fell from 20–26 percent to 4–8 percent within a few decades, both due to selective breeding for leanness and changed methods of butchery.[21] Methods of genetic engineering aimed at improving the meat production qualities of animals are now also becoming available.[22]

Even though it is a very old industry, meat production continues to be shaped strongly by the rapidly evolving demands of customers. The trend towards 

selling meat in pre-packaged cuts has increased the demand for larger breeds of cattle, which are better suited to producing such cuts.[23] Even more 

animals not previously exploited for their meat are now being farmed, especially the more agile and mobile species, whose muscles tend to be developed

 better than those of cattle, sheep or pigs.[23] Examples include the various antelope species, the zebra,water buffalo and camel,[24] as well as 

nonmammals, such as the crocodileemu and ostrich.[25] Another important trend in contemporary meat production is organic farming which, while 

providing no organoleptic benefit to meat so produced,[26] meets an increasing demand fornumerous reasons.

[edit]Growth and development of meat animals

Agricultural science has identified several factors bearing on the growth and development of meat in animals.


Reproductive efficiency2–10%
Meat quality15–30%
Muscle/fat ratio40–60%

Several economically important traits in meat animals are heritable to some degree (see the table to the right) and can thus be selected for by breeding. In cattle, certain growth features are controlled by recessive genes which have not so far been controlled, complicating breeding.[28] One such trait is dwarfism; another is the doppelender or "double muscling" condition, which causesmuscle hypertrophy and thereby increases the animal's commercial value.[28] Genetic analysiscontinues to reveal the genetic mechanisms that control numerous aspects of the endocrine system and, through it, meat growth and quality.[29]

Genetic engineering techniques can shorten breeding programmes significantly because they allow for the identification and isolation of genes coding for desired traits, and for the reincorporation of these genes into the animal genome.[30] To enable such manipulation, research is ongoing (as of 2006) to map the entire genome of sheep, cattle and pigs.[30] Some research has already seen commercial application. For instance, a recombinant bacterium has been developed which improves the digestion of grass in the rumen of cattle, 

and some specific features of muscle fibres have been genetically altered.[31]

Experimental reproductive cloning of commercially important meat animals such as sheep, pig or cattle has been successful. The multiple asexual 

reproduction of animals bearing desirable traits can thus be anticipated,[31] although this is not yet practical on a commercial scale.


Heat regulation in livestock is of great economic significance, because mammals attempt to maintain a constant optimal body temperature. 

Low temperatures tend to prolong animal development and high temperatures tend to retard it.[31] Depending on their size, body shape and

 insulation through tissue and fur, some animals have a relatively narrow zone of temperature tolerance and others (e.g. cattle) a broad one.[32]

Static magnetic fields, for reasons still unknown, also retard animal development.[32]


The quality and quantity of usable meat depends on the animal's plane of nutrition, i.e., whether it is over- or underfed. Scientists disagree, however, 

about how exactly the plane of nutrition influences carcase composition.[33]

The composition of the diet, especially the amount of protein provided, is also an important factor regulating animal growth.[34] Ruminants, which may 

digest cellulose, are better adapted to poor-quality diets, but their ruminal microorganisms degrade high-quality protein if supplied in excess.[35] 

Because producing high-quality protein animal feed is expensive (see also Environmental impact below), several techniques are employed or 

experimented with to ensure maximum utilization of protein. These include the treatment of feed with formalin to protect amino acids during their 

passage through the rumen, the recycling of manure by feeding it back to cattle mixed with feed concentrates, or the partial conversion of petroleum 

hydrocarbons to protein through microbial action.[36]

In plant feed, environmental factors influence the availability of crucial nutrients or micronutrients, a lack or excess of which can cause a great many 

ailments.[37] In Australia, for instance, where the soil contains limited phosphate, cattle are being fed additional phosphate to increase the efficiency of beef production.[38] Also in Australia, cattle and sheep in certain areas were often found losing their appetite and dying in the midst of rich pasture; this was at 

length found to be a result of cobalt deficiency in the soil.[37] Plant toxins are also a risk to grazing animals; for instance, fluoracetate, found in some African 

and Australian plants, kills by disrupting the cellular metabolism.[37] Certain man-madepollutants such as methylmercury and some pesticide residues 

present a particular hazard due to their tendency to bioaccumulate in meat, potentially poisoning consumers.[36]

[edit]Human intervention

Meat producers may seek to improve the fertility of female animals through the administration of gonadotrophic or ovulation-inducinghormones.[39] In pig production, sow infertility is a common problem, possibly due to excessive fatness.[40] No methods currently exist to augment the fertility of male 

animals.[40] Artificial insemination is now routinely used to produce animals of the best possible genetic quality, and the efficiency of this method is 

improved through the administration of hormones that synchronize the ovulation cycles within groups of females.[41]

Growth hormones, particularly anabolic agents such as steroids, are used in some countries to accelerate muscle growth in animals.[41] This practice 

has given rise to the beef hormone controversy, an international trade dispute. It may also decrease the tenderness of meat, although research on 

this is inconclusive,[42] and have other effects on the composition of the muscle flesh.[43] Where castration is used to improve control over male animals, 

its side effects are also counteracted by the administration of hormones.[41]

Sedatives may be administered to animals to counteract stress factors and increase weight gain.[44] The feeding of antibiotics to certain animals has been

 shown to improve growth rates also.[44] This practice is particularly prevalent in the USA, but has been banned in the EU, partly because it causes antibiotic resistance in pathogenic microorganisms.[44]

[edit]Biochemical composition

Numerous aspects of the biochemical composition of meat vary in complex ways depending on the species, breed, sex, age, plane of nutrition, training 

and exercise of the animal, as well as on the anatomical location of the musculature involved.[45] Even between animals of the same litter and sex there

are considerable differences in such parameters as the percentage of intramuscular fat.[46]

[edit]Main constituents

Adult mammalian muscle flesh consists of roughly 75 percent water, 19 percent protein, 2.5 percent intramuscular fat, 1.2 percentcarbohydrates and 

2.3 percent other soluble non-protein substances. These include nitrogenous compounds, such as amino acids, and inorganic substances such as minerals.[47]

Muscle proteins are either soluble in water (sarcoplasmic proteins, about 11.5 percent of total muscle mass) or in concentrated salt solutions (myofibrillar 

proteins, about 5.5 percent of mass).[48] There are several hundred sarcoplasmic proteins.[49] Most of them – the glycolyticenzymes – are involved in the 

glycolytic pathway, i.e., the conversion of stored energy into muscle power.[50] The two most abundant myofibrillar proteins, myosin and actin,[51] are 

responsible for the muscle's overall structure. The remaining protein mass consists ofconnective tissue (collagen and elastin) as well as organelle tissue.[47]

Fat in meat can be either adipose tissue, used by the animal to store energy and consisting of "true fats" (esters of glycerol with fatty acids),[52] or 

intramuscular fat, which contains considerable quantities of phospholipids and of unsaponifiable constituents such ascholesterol.[52]

[edit]Red and white meat

Meat can be broadly classified as "red" or "white" depending on the concentration of myoglobin in muscle fibre. When myoglobin is exposed to oxygen

reddish oxymyoglobin develops, making myoglobin-rich meat appear red. The redness of meat depends on species, animal age, and fibre type: 

Red meat contains more narrow muscle fibres that tend to operate over long periods without rest,[53] while white meat contains more broad fibres that 

tend to work in short fast bursts.[53]

The meat of adult mammals such as cowssheepgoats, and horses is generally considered red, while domestic chicken and turkey breast meat is 

generally considered white.

[edit]Meat nutritional information

Typical Meat Nutritional Content
from 110 grams (4 oz or .25 lb)
fish110–14020–25 g0 g1–5 g
chicken breast16028 g0 g7 g
lamb25030 g0 g14 g
steak (beef top round)21036 g0 g7 g
steak (beef T-bone)45025 g0 g35 g
Further information: NutritionFoodborne illnessHealth concerns associated with red meat

All muscle tissue is very high in protein, containing all of the essential amino acids, and in most cases is a good source of zincvitamin B12selenium,phosphorusniacinvitamin B6cholineriboflavin and iron.[54] Several forms of meat are high in vitamin K2,[55] which is only otherwise known to be found in fermented foods[citation needed], with natto having the highest concentration.[55]Muscle tissue is very low in carbohydrates and does not contain dietary fiber.[56]The fat content of meat can vary widely depending on the species and breed of animal, the way in which the animal was raised, including what it was fed, theanatomical part of the body, and the methods of butchering and cooking. Wild animals such as deer are typically leaner than farm animals, leading those concerned about fat content to choose game such as venison. Decades of breeding meat animals for fatness is being reversed by consumer demand for meat with less fat.

Red meat, such as beef, pork, and lamb, contains many essential nutrients necessary for healthy growth and development in children. Nutrients in red 

meat include iron, zinc, vitamin B12, and protein.[54] Most meats contain a full complement of the amino acids required for the human diet. Fruits and 

vegetables, by contrast, are usually lacking several essential amino acids contained in meat. It is for this reason that people who abstain from eating all 

meat need to plan their diet carefully to include sources of all the necessary amino acids.[57] (See SectionIssues of Meat for more details.)

The table in this section compares the nutritional content of several types of meat. While each kind of meat has about the same content of protein and 

carbohydrates, there is a very wide range of fat content. It is the additional fat that contributes most to the calorie content of meat, and to concerns about 

dietary health.[citation needed]


Main articles: Animal slaughterSlaughterhouse, and Butchery

Meat is produced by killing the animal in question and cutting the desired flesh out of it. These procedures are called slaughter and butchery, respectively.

Attesting to the long history of meat consumption in human civilizations, ritual slaughter has become part of the practice of several religions. These rituals, 

as well as other pre-industrial meat production methods such as these used by indigenous peoples, are not detailed here. This section will instead provide 

an overview of contemporary industrialized meat production in dedicated slaughterhouses from cattle, sheep and pigs.


Upon reaching a predetermined age or weight, livestock are usually transported en masse to the slaughterhouse. Depending on its length and 

circumstances, this may exert stress and injuries on the animals, and some may die en route.[58] Unnecessary stress in transport may adversely affect the 

quality of the meat.[58] In particular, the muscles of stressed animals are low in water and glycogen, and their pH fails to attain acidic values, all of which 

results in poor meat quality.[59] Consequently, and also due to campaigning by animal welfare groups, laws and industry practices in several countries 

tend to become more restrictive with respect to the duration and other circumstances of livestock transports.


Animals are usually slaughtered by being first stunned and then exsanguinated (bled out). Death results from the one or the other procedure, depending 

on the methods employed. Stunning can be effected through asphyxiating the animals with carbon dioxide, shooting them with agun or a captive bolt 

pistol, or shocking them with electric current.[60] In most forms of ritual slaughter, stunning is not allowed.

Draining as much blood as possible from the carcase is necessary because blood causes the meat to have an unappealing appearance and is a very good 

breeding ground for microorganisms.[61] The exsanguination is accomplished by severing the carotid artery and the jugular veinin cattle and sheep, and 

the anterior vena cava in pigs.[62]

[edit]Dressing and cutting

After exsanguination, the carcase is dressed; that is, the head, feet, hide (except hogs and some veal), excess fat, viscera and offal are removed, leaving 

only bones and edible muscle.[63] Cattle and pig carcases, but not those of sheep, are then split in half along the mid ventral axis, and the carcase is cut 

into wholesale pieces.[63] The dressing and cutting sequence, long a province of manual labor, is progressively being fully automated.[63]


Under hygienic conditions and without other treatment, meat can be stored at above its freezing point (–1.5 °C) for about six weeks without spoilage, 

during which time it undergoes an aging process that increases its tenderness and flavor.[64]

During the first day after death, glycolysis continues until the accumulation of lactic acid causes the pH to reach about 5.5. The remainingglycogen

about 18 g per kg, is believed to increase the water-holding capacity and tenderness of the flesh when cooked.[65] Rigor mortissets in a few hours after 

death as ATP is used up, causing actin and myosin to combine into rigid actomyosin and lowering the meat's water-holding capacity,[66] causing it to lose 

water ("weep").[67] In muscles that enter rigor in a contracted position, actin and myosin filaments overlap and cross-bond, resulting in meat that is tough on 

cooking[68] – hence again the need to prevent pre-slaughter stress in the animal.

Over time, the muscle proteins denature in varying degree, with the exception of the collagen and elastin of connective tissue,[69] and rigor mortis resolves. 

Because of these changes, the meat is tender and pliable when cooked just after death or after the resolution of rigor, but tough when cooked during 

rigor.[69] As the muscle pigment myoglobin denatures, its iron oxidates, which may cause a brown discoloration near the surface of the meat.[67] Ongoing 

proteolysis also contributes to conditioning. Hypoxanthine, a breakdown product of ATP, contributes to the meat's flavor and odor, as do other products 

of the discomposition of muscle fat and protein.[70]

[edit]Spoilage and preservation

Main articles: Meat spoilage and Meat preservation

The spoilage of meat occurs, if untreated, in a matter of hours or days and results in the meat becoming unappetizing, poisonous or infectious. Spoilage 

is caused by the practically unavoidable infection and subsequent decomposition of meat by bacteria and fungi, which are borne by the animal itself, 

by the people handling the meat, and by their implements. Meat can be kept edible for a much longer time – though not indefinitely – if proper hygiene 

is observed during production and processing, and if appropriate food safetyfood preservation andfood storage procedures are applied. Without the 

application of preservatives and stabilizers, the fats in meat may also begin to rapidly decompose after cooking or processing, leading to an objectionable 

taste known 

as warmed over flavor.

[edit]Methods of preparation

A spit barbecue at a street fair in New York City's East Village.

Meat is prepared in many ways, as steaks, in stewsfondue, or as dried meat like beef jerky. It may be ground then formed into patties (as hamburgers or croquettes), loaves, or sausages, or used in loose form (as in "sloppy joe" or Bolognese sauce). Some meat is cured, by smoking,pickling, preserving in salt or brine (see salted meat and curing). Other kinds of meat aremarinated and barbecued, or simply boiled, roasted, or fried. Meat is generally eaten cooked, but there are many traditional recipes that call for raw beef, veal or fish (tartare). Meat is often spiced or seasoned, as in most sausages. Meat dishes are usually described by their source (animal and part of body) and method of preparation.

Meat is a typical base for making sandwiches. Popular varieties of sandwich meat include ham,porksalami and other sausages, and beef, such as steakroast beefcorned beefpepperoni, and pastrami. Meat can also be molded or pressed (common for products that include offal, such as haggis and scrapple) and canned.

[edit]Issues with meat consumption

Processed meat in an American supermarket
Fresh meat in a Mexican supermarket
Kangaroo meat at an Australian supermarket
Main article: Ethics of eating meat


Ethical issues regarding the consumption of meat can include objections to the act of killing animals or the agricultural practices surrounding the production of meat. Reasons for objecting to the practice of killing animals for consumption may include animal rights,environmental ethics, religious doctrine, or an aversion to inflicting pain or harm on othersentient creatures. The religion of Jainism has always opposed eating meat, and there are also many schools of BuddhismHinduism and Sikhism that condemn the eating of meat. Some people, while not vegetarians, refuse to eat the flesh of certain animals, such as cats, dogs, horses, or rabbits, due to cultural or religious taboo. In some cases, specific meats (especially from pigs and cows) are forbidden within religious traditions. Some people eat only the flesh of animals which they believe have not been mistreated, and abstain from the meat of animals reared in factory farms or from particular products such as foie gras and veal.


See Articles: Vegetarianism and Vegan

Consumption of large quantities of meat, like overconsumption of any caloric food, has certain adverse effects[71] which can include: obesityheart disease, and constipation.[72] In recent years, health concerns have been raised about the consumption of meat increasing the risk of cancer.[73] In particular, red meat and processed meat were found to be associated with higher risk of cancers of the lung, esophagus, liver, and colon, among others, although also a reduced risk for some minor type of cancers.[73] Another study found an increase risk of pancreatic cancer for red meat and pork.[74] That study also suggests that fat and saturated fat are not likely contributors to pancreatic cancer. Animal fat, particularly from ruminants, tends to have a higher percentage of saturated fat vs. monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat when compared to vegetable fats, with the exception of some tropical plant fats;[75] consumption of which has been correlated with various health problems. The saturated fat found in meat has been associated with significantly raised risks of colon cancer,[76][77] although evidence suggests that risks of prostate cancer are unrelated to animal fat consumption.[78] USDA claims (see Dietary Guidelines for Americans) that consumption of meat as a source of protein in the human diet is crucial,[34] have been resoundingly contradicted by recent studies.[79][80][81]

The correlation of meat consumption to increased risk of heart disease is controversial. Some studies fail to find a link between red meat consumption and heart disease[82] (although the same study found statistically significant correlation between the consumption of processed meat and cancer), while another study, a survey ,conducted in 1960, of 25,153 California Seventh-Day Adventists, found that the risk of heart disease is three times greater for 45-64 year old men who eat meat daily, versus those who did not eat meat.[83] In another study[84] in 2010 involving over one million people who ate meat found that only processed meat had an adverse risk in relation to coronary heart disease. The study suggests that eating 50g (less than 2oz) of processed meat per day increases risk of coronary heart disease by 42%, and diabetes by 19%. Equivalent levels of fat, including saturated fats, in unprocessed meat (even when eating twice as 

much per day) did not show any deleterious effects, leading the researchers to suggest that "differences in salt and preservatives, rather than fats, might e

xplain the higher risk of heart disease and diabetes seen with processed meats, but not with unprocessed red meats."

A 2009 study by the National Cancer Institute revealed a correlation between the consumption of red meat and increased mortality from cancer and 

cardiovascular diseases.[85] This study has been criticized for using an improperly validated food frequency questionnaire,[86]which has been shown to 

have low levels of accuracy.[87][88]

In response to changing prices as well as health concerns about saturated fat and cholesterol, consumers have altered their consumption of various meats.

 A USDA report points out that consumption of beef in the United States between 1970–1974 and 1990–1994 dropped by 21%, while consumption 

chicken increased by 90%. During the same period of time, the price of chicken dropped by 14% relative to the price of beef. In 1995 and 1996, 

beef consumption increased due to higher supplies and lower prices.

A recent study by the Translational Genomics Research Institute showed that nearly half (47%) percent of the meat and poultry in U.S. grocery 

stores were contaminated with S. aureus, with more than half (52%) of those bacteria resistant to antibiotics.[89]


Meat can transmit certain diseases, but complete cooking and avoiding recontamination reduces this possibility.[90]

Several studies published since 1990 indicate that cooking muscle meat creates heterocyclic amines (HCAs), which are thought to increase cancer risk 

in humans. Researchers at the National Cancer Institute published results of a study which found that human subjects who ate beef rare or medium-rare 

had less than one third the risk of stomach cancer than those who ate beef medium-well or well-done.[91] While eating muscle meat raw may be the only

 way to avoid HCAs fully, the National Cancer Institute states that cooking meat below 212 °F(100 °C) creates "negligible amounts" of HCAs. Also, 

microwaving meat before cooking may reduce HCAs by 90%.[92]

Nitrosamines, present in processed and cooked foods, have been noted as being carcinogenic, being linked to colon cancer. Also, toxic compounds 

called PAHs, or Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, present in processed, smoked and cooked foods, are known to be carcinogenic.[93]

[edit]In vitro and imitation

Main articles: Imitation meatIn vitro meat

Various forms of imitation meat have been created to satisfy people wishing to reduce or eliminate meat consumption for health, environmental, or 

ethical considerations, but who still wish to taste the flavor and texture of meat. They are typically some form of processedsoybean, (tofutempeh), 

but they can also be based on wheat gluten or even fungus (quorn).

In vitro meat, also known as cultured meat, is animal flesh that has never been part of a complete, living animal. Several research projects are currently 

experimentally growing in vitro meat, but no meat has yet been produced for public consumption.[94] The goal is to grow fully developed muscle organs, 

but the first generation will most likely be minced meat products.

[edit]Environmental impact

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has estimated that direct emissions from meat production account for about 18% of the world's total 

greenhouse gas emissions. The FAO figure accounts for the entire meat production cycle - clearing forested land, making and transporting fertiliser

burning fossil fuels in agricultural machinery, and the front and rear end emissions of cattle and sheep.[95] In tracking food animal production from the

feed through to the dinner table, the inefficiencies of grain fed meat, milk and egg production range from a 4:1 energy input to protein output ratio up 

to 54:1, in the opinion of Roger Segelken.[96]