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Meat is
animal Animals (also called Metazoa) are multicellular eukaryotic organisms that form the Kingdom (biology), biological kingdom Animalia. With few exceptions, animals Heterotroph, consume organic material, Cellular respiration#Aerobic respiration, ...
flesh Flesh is a term for some soft tissues of an organism. Various multicellular organisms Multicellular organisms are organism In biology, an organism (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ὀργανισμός, ''organismos'') is any individual contig ...

flesh
that is eaten as
food Food is any substance consumed to provide nutritional support for an organism In biology, an organism (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ὀργανισμός, ''organismos'') is any individual contiguous system that embodies the Life#Biology ...

food
. Humans have hunted and killed animals for meat since prehistoric times. Scientific evidence indicates that human ancestors began incorporating meat and marrow into their diets more than 2.6 million years ago. The
Neolithic Revolution The Neolithic Revolution, or the (First) Agricultural Revolution, was the wide-scale transition of many human cultures during the Neolithic period from a lifestyle of hunter-gatherer, hunting and gathering to one of agriculture and sedentism, se ...
, also called the Agricultural Revolution, led to the
domestication of animals Domestication is a sustained multi-generational relationship in which one group of organisms assumes a significant degree of influence over the reproduction and care of another group to secure a more predictable supply of resources from that seco ...
such as chickens, sheep, rabbits, pigs, and cattle. This eventually led to their use in meat production on an industrial scale and the advent of
slaughterhouse A slaughterhouse, also called abattoir (), is a facility where animals are slaughtered, most often (though not always) to provide food for humans. Slaughterhouses supply meat, which then becomes the responsibility of a packaging facility. Sla ...

slaughterhouse
s. Meat is mainly composed of water,
protein Proteins are large biomolecules or macromolecules that are comprised of one or more long chains of amino acid residue (biochemistry), residues. Proteins perform a vast array of functions within organisms, including Enzyme catalysis, catalysing m ...
, and
fat In nutrition, biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical processes, Molecular biology, molecular interactions, Physiology, physiolo ...

fat
. It is edible raw, but is normally eaten after it has been cooked and seasoned or processed in a variety of ways. Unprocessed meat will spoil or rot within hours or days as a result of infection with, and decomposition by,
bacteria Bacteria (; common noun bacteria, singular bacterium) are a type of Cell (biology), biological cell. They constitute a large domain (biology), domain of prokaryotic microorganisms. Typically a few micrometres in length, bacteria have a Bacte ...
and
fungi A fungus (plural The plural (sometimes list of glossing abbreviations, abbreviated ), in many languages, is one of the values of the grammatical number, grammatical category of number. The plural of a noun typically denotes a quantity great ...

fungi
. Meat is important to economies and cultures around the world. Individuals who promote meat consumption do so for a number of reasons, such as health, cultural traditions, religious beliefs, and scientific arguments that support the practice. In certain contexts and at specific scales, the production and consumption of meat can have a negative impact on human health, animal health, and the environment. Humans who choose to not eat meat are referred to as
vegetarian Vegetarianism is the practice of abstaining from the consumption of meat Meat is animal flesh that is eaten as food. Humans have hunted and killed animals for meat since prehistoric times. The advent of civilization allowed the domestica ...

vegetarian
s and
vegans Veganism is the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products, particularly in diet, and an associated philosophy that rejects the commodity status of animals. An individual who follows the diet or philosophy is known as a vegan. Di ...
. People who do not eat meat choose to do so for reasons such as taste preferences, the
ethics of eating meat Conversations regarding the ethics of eating meat are focused on whether or not it is moral to eat non-human animals Animals (also called Metazoa) are multicellular Multicellular organisms are organism In biology, an organism (f ...
, the environmental effects of meat production, the health effects of meat consumption, or religious dietary rules.


Terminology

The word ''meat'' comes from the
Old English Old English (, ), or Anglo-Saxon, is the earliest recorded form of the English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventu ...
word , which referred to food in general. The term is related to in
Danish Danish may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to the country of Denmark * A national or citizen of Denmark, also called a "Dane", see Demographics of Denmark * Danish people or Danes, people with a Danish ancestral or ethnic identity * Danis ...
, in
Swedish Swedish or ' may refer to: * Anything from or related to Sweden, a country in Northern Europe * Swedish language, a North Germanic language spoken primarily in Sweden and Finland * Swedish alphabet, the official alphabet used by the Swedish langua ...
and
Norwegian Norwegian, Norwayan, or Norsk may refer to: *Something of, from, or related to Norway, a country in northwestern Europe *Norwegians, both a nation and an ethnic group native to Norway *Demographics of Norway *The Norwegian language, including the t ...
, and in
Icelandic Icelandic refers to anything of, from, or related to Iceland and may refer to: *Icelandic people *Icelandic language *Icelandic alphabet *Icelandic cuisine See also

* Icelander (disambiguation) * Icelandic Airlines, a predecessor of Icelandai ...
and
Faroese Faroese ( ) or Faroish ( ) may refer to anything pertaining to the Faroe Islands, e.g.: *the Faroese language * the Faroese people {{Disambiguation Language and nationality disambiguation pages ...
, which also mean 'food'. The word also exists in
Old Frisian Old Frisian was a West Germanic language spoken between the 8th and 16th centuries in the area between the Rhine ), Surselva, Graubünden, Switzerland ,german: Schweizer(in),french: Suisse(sse), it, svizzero/svizzera or , rm, Svizzer/Sv ...
(and to a lesser extent, modern West Frisian) to denote important food, differentiating it from (sweets) and (animal feed). Most often, ''meat'' refers to
skeletal muscle Skeletal muscles (commonly referred to as muscles) are Organ (biology), organs of the vertebrate muscular system that are mostly attached by tendons to bones of the skeleton. The muscle cells of skeletal muscles are much longer than in the other ...

skeletal muscle
and associated
fat In nutrition, biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical processes, Molecular biology, molecular interactions, Physiology, physiolo ...

fat
and other tissues, but it may also describe other edible tissues such as
offal Offal (), also called variety meats, pluck or organ meats, is the Organ (anatomy), organs of a butchered animal. The word does not refer to a particular list of edible organs, which varies by culture and region, but usually excludes muscle. Offal ...

offal
. ''Meat'' is sometimes also used in a more restrictive sense to mean the flesh of
mammal Mammals (from Latin language, Latin , 'breast') are a group of vertebrate animals constituting the class (biology), class Mammalia (), and characterized by the presence of mammary glands which in Female#Mammalian female, females produce milk ...
ian species (pigs, cattle, lambs, etc.) raised and prepared for human consumption, to the exclusion of
fish Fish are Aquatic animal, aquatic, craniate, gill-bearing animals that lack Limb (anatomy), limbs with Digit (anatomy), digits. Included in this definition are the living hagfish, lampreys, and Chondrichthyes, cartilaginous and bony fish as we ...
, other
seafood Seafood is any form of Marine life, sea life regarded as food by humans, prominently including Fish as food, fish and shellfish. Shellfish include various species of Mollusca, molluscs (e.g. bivalve molluscs such as clams, oysters, and mussels ...

seafood
,
insects Insects or Insecta (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power ...
,
poultry Poultry () are domesticated bird Birds are a group of warm-blooded vertebrates constituting the class (biology), class Aves , characterised by feathers, toothless beaked jaws, the Oviparity, laying of Eggshell, hard-shelled eggs, a hi ...

poultry
, or other animals. In the context of food, ''meat'' can also refer to "the edible part of something as distinguished from its covering (such as a husk or shell)", for example, ''coconut meat''. In English, there are also specialized terms for the meat of particular animals. These terms originated with the
Norman conquest of England The Norman Conquest (or the Conquest) was the 11th-century invasion and occupation of England England is a Countries of the United Kingdom, country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to its west and ...
in 1066: while the animals retained their English names, their meat as brought to the tables of the invaders was referred to them with the
Norman French Norman or Norman French (', french: Normand, Guernésiais Guernésiais, also known as ''Dgèrnésiais'', Guernsey French, and Guernsey Norman French, is the variety of the Norman language Norman or Norman French (', french: Normand, Guernési ...
words for the respective animal. In time, these appellations came to be used by the entire population.


History


Hunting and farming

Paleontological Paleontology, also spelled palaeontology or palæontology (), is the scientific study of life that existed prior to, and sometimes including, the start of the Holocene The Holocene ( ) is the current geological epoch. It began approximate ...
evidence suggests that meat constituted a substantial proportion of the diet of the earliest humans. Early
hunter-gatherer A hunter-gatherer is a human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most populous and widespread species of primates, characterized by bipedality, opposable thumbs, hairlessness, and intelligence allowing the use of culture, language and tools. T ...
s depended on the organized hunting of large animals such as
bison Bison are large, even-toed ungulates in the genus Genus (plural genera) is a taxonomic rank Taxonomy (general) is the practice and science of classification of things or concepts, including the principles that underlie such classification. ...
and
deer Deer or true deer are hoofed ruminant mammals forming the family (biology), family Cervidae. The two main groups of deer are the Cervinae, including the muntjac, the elk (wapiti), the red deer, and the fallow deer; and the Capreolinae, includi ...
. The
domestication Domestication is a sustained multi-generational relationship in which one group of organisms assumes a significant degree of influence over the reproduction and care of another group to secure a more predictable supply of resources from that seco ...
of animals, of which we have evidence dating back to the end of the last glacial period (c. 10,000 BCE), allowed the systematic production of meat and the
breeding Breeding is sexual reproduction Sexual reproduction is a type of reproduction Reproduction (or procreation or breeding) is the biological process by which new individual organism In biology, an organism (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ...
of animals with a view to improving meat production. Animals that are now principal sources of meat were domesticated in conjunction with the development of early civilizations: *
Sheep Sheep (''Ovis aries'') are quadrupedal, ruminant mammals typically kept as livestock. Like all ruminants, sheep are members of the order (biology), order Artiodactyla, the even-toed ungulates. Although the name ''sheep'' applies to many species ...

Sheep
, originating from western Asia, were domesticated with the help of dogs prior to the establishment of settled
agriculture Agriculture is the science, art and practice of cultivating plants and livestock. Agriculture was the key development in the rise of sedentism, sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domestication, domesticated species created food ...
, likely as early as the 8th millennium BCE. Several breeds of sheep were established in ancient
Mesopotamia Mesopotamia ( grc, Μεσοποταμία ''Mesopotamíā''; ar, بِلَاد ٱلرَّافِدَيْن ; syc, ܐܪܡ ܢܗܪ̈ܝܢ, or , ) is a historical region of Western Asia situated within the Tigris–Euphrates river system, in the ...

Mesopotamia
and
Egypt Egypt ( ar, مِصر, Miṣr), officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a transcontinental country This is a list of countries located on more than one continent A continent is one of several large landmasses. Generally identif ...
by 3500–3000 BCE. Today, more than 200 sheep-breeds exist. *
Cattle Cattle, taurine cattle, Eurasian cattle, or European cattle (''Bos taurus'' or ''Bos primigenius taurus'') are large domesticated Domestication is a sustained multi-generational relationship in which one group of organisms assumes a signific ...

Cattle
were domesticated in Mesopotamia after settled agriculture was established about 5000 BCE, and several breeds were established by 2500 BCE. Modern domesticated cattle fall into the groups ''
Bos taurus Cattle, or cows (female) and bull A bull is an intact (i.e., not castrated) adult male Male (♂) is the sex of an organism that produces the gamete known as sperm. A male gamete can fuse with a larger female gamete, or ovum, in the ...

Bos taurus
'' (European cattle) and ''
Bos taurus indicus The zebu (; ''Bos indicus'' or ''Bos taurus indicus''), sometimes known in the plural as indicine cattle or humped cattle, is a species In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their a ...

Bos taurus indicus
'' (zebu), both descended from the now-extinct
aurochs The aurochs ( or ; pl. aurochs, or rarely aurochsen, aurochses) (''Bos primigenius''), also known as urus or ure, is an extinct species of large wild cattle that inhabited Asia, Europe, and North Africa. It is the ancestor of domestic cattle. T ...
. The breeding of
beef cattle Beef cattle are cattle Cattle, or cows (female) and bulls (male), are the most common type of large domesticated Domestication is a sustained multi-generational relationship in which one group of organisms assumes a significant degree o ...
, cattle optimized for meat production as opposed to animals best suited for work or dairy purposes, began in the middle of the 18th century. *
Domestic pig The pig (''Sus domesticus''), often called swine, hog, or domestic pig when distinguishing from other members of the genus ''Sus (genus), Sus'', is an Omnivore, omnivorous, Domestication, domesticated even-toed ungulate, even-toed hoofed mamma ...
s, which are descended from
wild boar The wild boar (''Sus scrofa''), also known as the wild swine, common wild pig, Eurasian wild pig, or simply wild pig, is a suid native to much of Eurasia Eurasia () is the largest continental area on Earth, comprising all of Europe and ...

wild boar
s, are known to have existed about 2500 BCE in modern-day Hungary and in
Troy Troy ( grc, Τροία, ''Troía'', , ''Ī́lion'' or , ''Ī́lios''; la, Troia, also ;''Troia'' is the typical Latin name for the city. ''Īlium'' is a more poetic term: Hittite language, Hittite: 𒌷𒃾𒇻𒊭 ''Wilusa'' or 𒋫𒊒𒄿 ...

Troy
; earlier pottery from
Tell es-Sultan Tell es-Sultan ( ar, تل السلطان, ''lit.'' Sultan Sultan (; ar, سلطان ', ) is a position with several historical meanings. Originally, it was an Arabic abstract noun A noun (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical lan ...

Tell es-Sultan
(Jericho) and Egypt depicts wild pigs.
Pork Pork is the culinary name for the meat of a domestic pig The domestic pig (''Sus scrofa domesticus'' or only ''Sus domesticus''), often called swine, hog, or simply pig when there is no need to distinguish it from other pigs, is a large, D ...

Pork
sausages and
ham Ham is pork Pork is the culinary name for the meat of a domestic pig The domestic pig (''Sus scrofa domesticus'' or only ''Sus domesticus''), often called swine, hog, or simply pig when there is no need to distinguish it from other ...

ham
s were of great commercial importance in
Greco-Roman File:Merida Roman Theatre2.jpg, Roman Theatre of Mérida, Spain. The term "Greco-Roman world" (also "Greco-Roman culture" or ; spelled Graeco-Roman in the Commonwealth of Nations, Commonwealth), as understood by modern scholars and writers, r ...
times. Pigs continue to be bred intensively as they are being optimized to produce meat best suited for specific meat products. Other animals are or have been raised or hunted for their flesh. The type of meat consumed varies much between different cultures, changes over time, depending on factors such as tradition and the availability of the animals. The amount and kind of meat consumed also varies by income, both between countries and within a given country. *
Deer Deer or true deer are hoofed ruminant mammals forming the family (biology), family Cervidae. The two main groups of deer are the Cervinae, including the muntjac, the elk (wapiti), the red deer, and the fallow deer; and the Capreolinae, includi ...
are hunted for their meat (
venison Venison originally meant the meat Meat is animal flesh that is eaten as food. Humans have hunted and killed animals for meat since prehistoric times. The advent of civilization allowed the domestication of animals such as chickens, sheep, ...

venison
) in various regions. *
Horses The horse (''Equus ferus caballus'') is a domesticated odd-toed ungulate mammal Mammals (from Latin language, Latin , 'breast') are a group of vertebrate animals constituting the class (biology), class Mammalia (), and characterized by ...
are commonly eaten in France, Italy, Germany and Japan, among other countries. Horses and other large
mammal Mammals (from Latin language, Latin , 'breast') are a group of vertebrate animals constituting the class (biology), class Mammalia (), and characterized by the presence of mammary glands which in Female#Mammalian female, females produce milk ...
s such as
reindeer The reindeer (''Rangifer tarandus''), also known as the caribou in North America, is a species of deer with circumpolar distribution, native to Arctic, subarctic, tundra, boreal, and mountainous regions of northern Europe, Siberia, and North ...

reindeer
were hunted during the late
Paleolithic The Paleolithic or Palaeolithic or Palæolithic (), also called the Old Stone Age (from Greek wikt:παλαιός, palaios - old, wikt:λίθος, lithos - stone), is a period in prehistory distinguished by the original development of stone too ...
in western Europe. *
Dogs The dog or domestic dog (''Canis familiaris'' or ''Canis lupus familiaris'') is a domesticated Domestication is a sustained multi-generational relationship in which one group of organisms assumes a significant degree of influence over the r ...

Dogs
are consumed in China, South Korea and Vietnam. Dogs are also occasionally eaten in the
Arctic The Arctic ( or ) is a polar regions of Earth, polar region located at the northernmost part of Earth. The Arctic consists of the Arctic Ocean, adjacent seas, and parts of Alaska (United States), Canada, Finland, Greenland (Danish Realm, Den ...

Arctic
regions. Historically, dog meat has been consumed in various parts of the world, such as
Hawaii Hawaii ( ; haw, Hawaii or ) is a U.S. state, state in the Western United States, located in the Pacific Ocean about 2,000 miles from the U.S. mainland. It is the only state outside North America, the only state that is an archipelago, a ...

Hawaii
, Japan, Switzerland and Mexico. *
Cats The cat (''Felis catus'') is a domestic Domestic may refer to: In the home * Anything relating to the human home A home, or domicile, is a space used as a permanent or semi-permanent residence for an individual, group or family ...
are consumed in Southern China, Peru and sometimes also in
Northern Italy Northern Italy ( it, Italia settentrionale, it, Nord Italia, label=none, it, Alta Italia, label=none or just it, Nord, label=none) is a geographical and cultural region in the northern part of Italy. Non-administrative, it consists of eight adm ...
. *
Guinea pig The guinea pig or domestic guinea pig (''Cavia porcellus''), also known as the cavy or domestic cavy (), is a species of rodent Rodents (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic bra ...

Guinea pig
s are raised for their flesh in the
Andes The Andes, Andes Mountains or Andean Mountains ( es, Cordillera de los Andes) are the List of mountain ranges#Mountain ranges by length, longest continental mountain range in the world, forming a continuous highland along the western edge of Sout ...
. *
Whale Whales are a widely distributed and diverse group of fully Aquatic ecosystem, aquatic placental mammal, placental marine mammals. They are an informal grouping within the infraorder Cetacea, which usually excludes dolphins and porpoises. Wh ...

Whale
s and
dolphin Dolphin is the common name of aquatic mammals within the infraorder Cetacea. The term dolphin usually refers to the extant families Delphinidae (the oceanic dolphins), Platanistidae (the Indian river dolphins), Iniidae (the New World river dol ...
s are hunted, partly for their flesh, in Japan,
Alaska Alaska (; ale, Alax̂sxax̂; ; ems, Alas'kaaq; Yup'ik The Yup'ik or Yupiaq (sg & pl) and Yupiit or Yupiat (pl), also Central Alaskan Yup'ik, Central Yup'ik, Alaskan Yup'ik ( own name ''Yup'ik'' sg ''Yupiik'' dual ''Yupiit'' pl; rus ...
,
Siberia Siberia (; rus, Сибирь, r=Sibir', p=sʲɪˈbʲirʲ, a=Ru-Сибирь.ogg) is an extensive geographical region spanning much of Northern Asia. Siberia has been Russian conquest of Siberia, part of modern Russia since the latter half of th ...

Siberia
, Canada, the
Faroe Islands The Faroe Islands ( ), or simply the Faroes or Faeroes ( fo, Føroyar ; da, Færøerne ), are a North Atlantic archipelago located north-northwest of Scotland, and about halfway between Norway ( away) and Iceland ( away). Like Greenland, it ...

Faroe Islands
,
Greenland Greenland ( kl, Kalaallit Nunaat, ; da, Grønland, ) is an Autonomous administrative division, autonomous territory* * * within the Danish Realm and the List of islands by area, world's largest island, located between the Arctic Ocean, Arcti ...

Greenland
, Iceland, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and by two small communities in
Indonesia Indonesia ( ), officially the Republic of Indonesia ( id, Republik Indonesia, links=yes ), is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania between the Indian Ocean, Indian and Pacific Ocean, Pacific oceans. It consists of more than List of islands ...

Indonesia
. Modern agriculture employs a number of techniques, such as progeny testing, to speed
artificial selection This Chihuahua (dog), Chihuahua mixed-breed dog, mix and Great Dane shows the wide range of dog breed sizes created using selective breeding. Selective breeding (also called artificial selection) is the process by which humans use animal breed ...
by breeding animals to rapidly acquire the qualities desired by meat producers. For instance, in the wake of well-publicised health concerns associated with
saturated fat A saturated fat is a type of fat in which the fatty acid chains have all or predominantly single bonds. A fat is made of two kinds of smaller molecules: glycerol and fatty acids. Fats are made of long chains of carbon (C) atoms. Some carbon a ...
s in the 1980s, the fat content of United Kingdom beef, pork and lamb fell from 20–26 percent to 4–8 percent within a few decades, due to both selective breeding for leanness and changed methods of
butcher A butcher is a person who may Animal slaughter, slaughter animals, dress their flesh, sell their meat, or participate within any combination of these three tasks. They may prepare standard cuts of meat and poultry for sale in retail or wholesale ...

butcher
y. Methods of
genetic engineering Genetic engineering, also called genetic modification or genetic manipulation, is the direct manipulation of an organism's gene In biology, a gene (from ''genos'' "...Wilhelm Johannsen coined the word gene to describe the Mendelian_in ...
aimed at improving the meat production qualities of animals are now also becoming available. Even though it is a very old industry, meat production continues to be shaped strongly by the 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. 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. Examples are the various
antelope The term antelope is used to refer to many species of even-toed ruminant Ruminants are herbivorous mammals of the suborder Ruminantia that are able to acquire nutrients from plant-based food by Enteric fermentation, fermenting it in a specialize ...
species, the
zebra Zebras (, ) (subgenus ''Hippotigris'') are African equines ''Equus'' is a genus Genus (plural genera) is a taxonomic rank Taxonomy (general) is the practice and science of classification of things or concepts, including the principles t ...

zebra
,
water buffalo The water buffalo (''Bubalus bubalis''), also called the domestic water buffalo or Asian water buffalo, is a large bovid The Bovidae comprise the biological family Family ( la, familia, plural ') is one of the eight major hierarchical tax ...

water buffalo
and
camel A camel is an even-toed ungulate in the genus ''Camelus'' that bears distinctive fatty deposits known as "humps" on its back. Camels have long been domesticated and, as livestock, they provide food (milk Milk is a nutrient-rich liquid ...
, as well as non-mammals, such as the
crocodile Crocodiles (family In human society A society is a Social group, group of individuals involved in persistent Social relation, social interaction, or a large social group sharing the same spatial or social territory, typically subj ...
,
emu The emu (''Dromaius novaehollandiae'') is the second-largest living bird by height, after its ratite relative, the ostrich. It is endemic Endemism is the state of a species In biology, a species is the basic unit of biological c ...

emu
and
ostrich ''Struthio'' is a genus of birds in the order (biology), order Struthioniformes, whose members are the ostriches. It is part of the infra-class Palaeognathae, a diverse group of flightless birds also known as ratites that includes the emus, Rhea ( ...

ostrich
. Another important trend in contemporary meat production is
organic farming Organic farming is an agricultural system that uses fertilizers of organic origin such as compost manure Image:Hestemøj.jpg, Animal manure is often a mixture of animal feces and bedding straw, as in this example from a stable. Manure is orga ...
which, while providing no
organoleptic Organoleptic properties are the aspects of food, water or other substances that create an individual experience via the senses—including taste, sight, smell, and touch. USDA uses In traditional U.S. Department of Agriculture meat and poultr ...
benefit to meat so produced, meets an increasing demand for organic meat.


Culture

For most of human history, meat was a largely unquestioned part of the human diet. Only in the 20th century did it begin to become a topic of discourse and contention in society, politics and wider culture.


Consumption

Meat consumption varies worldwide, depending on cultural or religious preferences, as well as economic conditions.
Vegetarians Vegetarianism is the practice of abstaining from the consumption of meat Meat is animal flesh that is eaten as food. Humans have hunted and killed animals for meat since prehistoric times. The advent of civilization allowed the domestica ...
and
vegans Veganism is the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products, particularly in diet, and an associated philosophy that rejects the commodity status of animals. An individual who follows the diet or philosophy is known as a vegan. Di ...
choose not to eat meat because of taste preferences, ethical, economic, environmental, religious, or health concerns that are associated with meat production and consumption. According to the analysis of the FAO, the overall consumption for
white meat In culinary terms, white meat is meat which is pale in color before and after cooking. A common example of white meat is the lighter-colored meat Meat is animal flesh that is eaten as food. Humans have hunted and killed animals for meat since ...
between 1990 and 2009 has dramatically increased. Poultry meat has increased by 76.6% per kilo per capita and pig meat by 19.7%. Bovine meat has decreased from per capita in 1990 to per capita in 2009. Overall, diets that include meat are the most common worldwide according to the results of a 2018
Ipsos MORI Ipsos MORI is a market research Market research is an organized effort to gather information about target markets and customers: know about them, starting with who they are. It is a very important component of business strategy and a major facto ...
study of 16–64 years olds in 28 different countries. Ipsos states “''An omnivorous diet is the most common diet globally, with non-meat diets (which can include fish) followed by over a tenth of the global population.''” Approximately 87% of people include meat in their diet in some frequency. 73% of meat eaters included it in their diet regularly and 14% consumed meat only occasionally or infrequently. Estimates of the non-meat diets were also broken down. About 3% of people followed vegan diets, where consumption of meat, eggs, and dairy are abstained from. About 5% of people followed vegetarian diets, where consumption of meat is abstained from, but egg and/or dairy consumption is not strictly restricted. About 3% of people followed
pescetarian Pescetarianism (sometimes spelled pescatarianism) is the practice of using seafood Seafood is any form of sea life regarded as food by humans, prominently including fish Fish are Aquatic animal, aquatic, craniate, gill-bearing animal ...
diets, where consumption of the meat of land animals is abstained from, fish meat and other seafood is consumed, and egg and/or dairy consumption may or may not be strictly restricted.


History

In the nineteenth century meat consumption in Britain was the highest in Europe, exceeded only by that in British colonies. In the 1830s consumption per head in Britain was about 75 pounds a year, rising to 130 pounds in 1912. In 1904 laborers were found to consume 87 pounds a year while aristocrats ate 300 pounds. There were estimated to be 43,000 meat purveyor establishments in Britain in 1910, with "possibly more money invested in the meat industry than in any other British business" except the finance industry. The USA was a meat importing country by 1926. Truncated lifespan as a result of intensive breeding allowed more meat to be produced from fewer animals. The world cattle population was about 600 million in 1929, with 700 million sheep and goats and 300 million pigs.


Animal growth and development

Agricultural science Agricultural science is a broad multidisciplinary field of biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical processes, Molecular biology, mo ...
has identified several factors bearing on the growth and development of meat in animals.


Genetics

Several economically important traits in meat animals are heritable to some degree (see the adjacent table) and can thus be selected for by
animal breeding Animal breeding is a branch of animal science Animal science (also bioscience) is described as "studying the biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Bioch ...
. In cattle, certain growth features are controlled by recessive genes which have not so far been controlled, complicating breeding. One such trait is
dwarfism Dwarfism occurs when an organism In biology, an organism (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ὀργανισμός, ''organismos'') is any individual contiguous system that embodies the Life#Biology, properties of life. It is a synonym for "Out ...
; another is the doppelender or "
double muscling Myostatin (also known as growth differentiation factor 8, abbreviated GDF8) is a myokine, a protein produced and released by myocytes that acts on muscle cells to inhibit muscle cell growth. In humans it is encoded by the ''MSTN'' gene. Myostatin i ...
" condition, which causes
muscle hypertrophy Muscle hypertrophy or muscle building involves a hypertrophy or increase in size of skeletal muscle Skeletal muscle (also called striated muscle - although cardiac muscle is also striated) is one of three major muscle types, the others being ca ...
and thereby increases the animal's commercial value.
Genetic analysis Genetic analysis is the overall process of studying and research Research is "creativity, creative and systematic work undertaken to increase the stock of knowledge". It involves the collection, organization, and analysis of information t ...
continues to reveal the genetic mechanisms that control numerous aspects of the
endocrine system The endocrine system is a messenger system comprising feedback loops of the hormones released by internal glands of an organism directly into the circulatory system, regulating distant target organs. In vertebrates, the hypothalamus is the neura ...

endocrine system
and, through it, meat growth and quality.
Genetic engineering Genetic engineering, also called genetic modification or genetic manipulation, is the direct manipulation of an organism's gene In biology, a gene (from ''genos'' "...Wilhelm Johannsen coined the word gene to describe the Mendelian_in ...
techniques can shorten breeding programs significantly because they allow for the identification and isolation of
gene In biology, a gene (from ''genos'' "...Wilhelm Johannsen coined the word gene to describe the Mendelian_inheritance#History, Mendelian units of heredity..." (Greek language, Greek) meaning ''generation'' or ''birth'' ) is a basic unit of her ...

gene
s coding for desired traits, and for the reincorporation of these genes into the animal
genome In the fields of molecular biology Molecular biology is the branch of biology that seeks to understand the molecule, molecular basis of biological activity in and between Cell (biology), cells, including biomolecule, molecular synthesis, ...

genome
. To enable such manipulation, research is ongoing () to map the entire genome of sheep, cattle and pigs. Some research has already seen commercial application. For instance, a
recombinantRecombinant may refer to: * Recombinant organism A genetically modified organism (GMO) is any organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques. The exact definition of a genetically modified organism and wha ...

recombinant
bacterium Bacteria (; common noun bacteria, singular bacterium) are a type of biological cell The cell (from Latin ''cella'', meaning "small room") is the basic structural, functional, and biological unit of all known organisms. Cells are the sma ...
has been developed which improves the digestion of grass in the
rumen The rumen, also known as a paunch, is the largest stomach compartment in ruminants and the larger part of the reticulorumen, which is the first chamber in the alimentary canal of ruminant animals. The rumen's microbial favoring environment all ...
of cattle, and some specific features of muscle fibres have been genetically altered. Experimental reproductive cloning of commercially important meat animals such as sheep, pig or cattle has been successful. Multiple asexual reproduction of animals bearing desirable traits is anticipated, although this is not yet practical on a commercial scale.


Environment

Heat regulation in
livestock Livestock are the domesticated Domestication is a sustained multi-generational relationship in which one group of organisms assumes a significant degree of influence over the reproduction and care of another group to secure a more predictable ...
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. 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. Static
magnetic field A magnetic field is a vector field that describes the magnetic influence on moving electric charges, electric currents, and magnetic materials. A moving charge in a magnetic field experiences a force perpendicular to its own velocity and to the ...

magnetic field
s, for reasons still unknown, also retard animal development.


Nutrition

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 about how exactly the plane of nutrition influences carcass composition. The composition of the diet, especially the amount of protein provided, is also an important factor regulating animal growth.
Ruminant Ruminants (suborder In biological classification, the order ( la, wikt:ordo#Latin, ordo) is # a taxonomic rank used in the classification of organisms and recognized by the nomenclature codes. The well-known ranks in descending order are: life, ...
s, which may digest
cellulose Cellulose is an organic compound , CH4; is among the simplest organic compounds. In chemistry Chemistry is the scientific discipline involved with Chemical element, elements and chemical compound, compounds composed of atoms, molecules and ...
, are better adapted to poor-quality diets, but their ruminal microorganisms degrade high-quality protein if supplied in excess. Because producing high-quality protein animal feed is expensive (see also ''
Environmental impact Environmental issues are harmful effects of human activity on the biophysical environment. Environmental protection is a practice of protecting the natural environment on the individual, organizational or governmental levels, for the benefit of b ...
'' below), several techniques are employed or experimented with to ensure maximum utilization of protein. These include the treatment of feed with
formalin Formaldehyde ( , also ) ( systematic name methanal) is a naturally occurring organic compound , CH4; is among the simplest organic compounds. In chemistry, organic compounds are generally any chemical compounds that contain carbon-hydrogen che ...
to protect
amino acid Amino acids are organic compound , CH4; is among the simplest organic compounds. In chemistry, organic compounds are generally any chemical compounds that contain carbon-hydrogen chemical bond, bonds. Due to carbon's ability to Catenation, c ...
s during their passage through the
rumen The rumen, also known as a paunch, is the largest stomach compartment in ruminants and the larger part of the reticulorumen, which is the first chamber in the alimentary canal of ruminant animals. The rumen's microbial favoring environment all ...
, the recycling of
manure Image:Hestemøj.jpg, Animal manure is often a mixture of animal feces and bedding straw, as in this example from a stable. Manure is organic matter that is used as organic fertilizer in agriculture. Most manure consists of animal feces; other so ...

manure
by feeding it back to cattle mixed with feed concentrates, or the partial conversion of
petroleum Petroleum (), also known as crude oil and oil, is a #Latent heat of vaporization, naturally occurring, yellowish-black liquid found in geological formations beneath the Earth, Earth's surface. It is commonly refined into various types of fuels. ...

petroleum
hydrocarbon In organic chemistry, a hydrocarbon is an organic compound , CH4; is among the simplest organic compounds. In chemistry, organic compounds are generally any chemical compounds that contain carbon-hydrogen chemical bond, bonds. Due to carbon's a ...
s to protein through microbial action. In plant feed, environmental factors influence the availability of crucial
nutrient A nutrient is a substance Substance may refer to: * Substance (Jainism), a term in Jain ontology to denote the base or owner of attributes * Chemical substance, a material with a definite chemical composition * Matter, anything that has mass and ta ...
s or
micronutrient Micronutrients are nutrient, essential dietary elements required by organisms in varying quantities throughout life to orchestrate a range of physiological functions to maintain health. Micronutrient requirements differ between organisms; for examp ...
s, a lack or excess of which can cause a great many ailments. In Australia, for instance, where the soil contains limited
phosphate In chemistry Chemistry is the scientific discipline involved with Chemical element, elements and chemical compound, compounds composed of atoms, molecules and ions: their composition, structure, properties, behavior and the changes they un ...

phosphate
, cattle are being fed additional phosphate to increase the efficiency of beef production. 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 Cobalt is a chemical element Image:Simple Periodic Table Chart-blocks.svg, 400px, Periodic table, The periodic table of the chemical elements In chemistry, an element is a pure substance consisting only of atoms that all have the same numbe ...
deficiency in the soil. Plant
toxin A toxin is a harmful substance produced within living cells or organisms; synthetic toxicants created by artificial processes are thus excluded. The term was first used by organic chemist Ludwig Brieger (1849–1919), derived from the word toxic ...
s are also a risk to grazing animals; for instance,
sodium fluoroacetate Sodium fluoroacetate is an organofluorine chemical compound A chemical compound is a chemical substance composed of many identical molecules (or molecular entity, molecular entities) composed of atoms from more than one chemical element, elem ...

sodium fluoroacetate
, found in some African and Australian plants, kills by disrupting the
cellular metabolism Metabolism (, from el, μεταβολή ''metabolē'', "change") is the set of life Life is a characteristic that distinguishes physical entities that have biological processes, such as signaling and self-sustaining processes, ...
. Certain man-made
pollutant A pollutant is a substance or energy introduced into the environment that has undesired effects, or adversely affects the usefulness of a resource. A pollutant may cause long- or short-term damage by changing the growth rate of plant or animal spec ...
s such as
methylmercury Methylmercury (sometimes methyl mercury) is an extremely toxic organometallic cation An ion () is a particle, atom or molecule with a net electric charge, electrical charge. The charge of the electron is considered negative by convention ...

methylmercury
and some
pesticide Pesticides are substances that are meant to control pests Pest or The Pest may refer to: Science and medicine * Pest (organism), an animal or plant detrimental to humans or human concerns ** Weed, a plant considered undesirable * Infectious di ...
residues present a particular hazard due to their tendency to
bioaccumulateBioaccumulation is the gradual accumulation of substances, such as pesticides Pesticides are substances that are meant to control pests. The term pesticide includes all of the following: herbicide Herbicides (, ), also commonly known as weed ...
in meat, potentially poisoning consumers.


Human intervention

Meat producers may seek to improve the
fertility Fertility is the capability to produce offspring through reproduction following the onset of sexual maturity. The fertility rate is the average number of children born by a female during her lifetime and is quantified Demography, demographically ...
of female animals through the administration of gonadotrophic or
ovulation Ovulation is the release of eggs from the ovaries. In women, this event occurs when the ovarian follicles rupture and release the secondary oocyte ovarian cells. After ovulation, during the luteal phase, the egg will be available to be Human ferti ...

ovulation
-inducing
hormone A hormone (from the Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 m ...

hormone
s. In pig production, sow infertility is a common problem — possibly due to excessive fatness. No methods currently exist to augment the fertility of male animals. 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.
Growth hormone Growth hormone (GH) or somatotropin, also known as human growth hormone (hGH or HGH) in its human form, is a peptide hormone that stimulates growth, cell (biology), cell reproduction, and cell regeneration in humans and other animals. It is thu ...
s, particularly
anabolic Anabolism () is the set of metabolic pathways that construct molecules from smaller units. These reactions require energy, known also as an endergonic process. Anabolism is the building-up aspect of metabolism Metabolism (, from el, μ ...
agents such as
steroid , hypothetical a steroid with 32 carbon atoms. Its core ring system (ABCD), composed of 17 carbon atoms, is shown with IUPAC The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC ) is an international federation of National Adhering ...

steroid
s, are used in some countries to accelerate muscle growth in animals. 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, and have other effects on the composition of the muscle flesh. Where
castration Castration (also known as orchiectomy or orchidectomy) is any action, surgical Surgery ''cheirourgikē'' (composed of χείρ, "hand", and ἔργον, "work"), via la, chirurgiae, meaning "hand work". is a medical or dental specialty tha ...

castration
is used to improve control over male animals, its side effects are also counteracted by the administration of hormones.
Sedative A sedative or tranquilliser is a substance that induces sedation by reducing irritability or Psychomotor agitation, excitement. They are Central nervous system, CNS depressants and interact with brain activity causing its deceleration. Various kin ...
s may be administered to animals to counteract stress factors and increase weight gain. The feeding of antibiotics to certain animals has been shown to improve growth rates also. This practice is particularly prevalent in the USA, but has been banned in the European Union, EU, partly because it causes antimicrobial resistance in pathogenic microorganisms.


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. Even between animals of the same litter and sex there are considerable differences in such parameters as the percentage of intramuscular fat.


Main constituents

Adult mammalian muscle flesh consists of roughly 75 percent water, 19 percent protein, 2.5 percent intramuscular fat, 1.2 percent carbohydrates and 2.3 percent other soluble non-protein substances. These include nitrogenous compounds, such as
amino acid Amino acids are organic compound , CH4; is among the simplest organic compounds. In chemistry, organic compounds are generally any chemical compounds that contain carbon-hydrogen chemical bond, bonds. Due to carbon's ability to Catenation, c ...
s, and inorganic substances such as minerals. 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). There are several hundred sarcoplasmic proteins. Most of them – the glycolytic enzymes – are involved in the Glycolysis, glycolytic pathway, i.e., the conversion of stored energy into muscle power. The two most abundant myofibrillar proteins, myosin and actin, are responsible for the muscle's overall structure. The remaining protein mass consists of connective tissue (collagen and elastin) as well as organelle tissue. 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), or intramuscular fat, which contains considerable quantities of phospholipids and of Saponification, unsaponifiable constituents such as cholesterol.


Red and white

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, while white meat contains more broad fibres that tend to work in short fast bursts. Generally, the meat of adult mammals such as beef, cows, Lamb and mutton, sheep, and horse meat, horses is considered red, while Chicken as food, chicken and Turkey meat, turkey breast meat is considered white.


Nutritional information

All muscle tissue is very high in protein, containing all of the essential amino acids, and in most cases is a good source of zinc, vitamin B12, vitamin B12, selenium, phosphorus, niacin, vitamin B6, vitamin B6, choline, riboflavin and iron. Several forms of meat are also high in vitamin K. Muscle tissue is very low in carbohydrates and does not contain dietary fiber. While taste quality may vary between meats, the proteins, vitamins, and minerals available from meats are generally consistent. 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, the anatomy, anatomical part of the body, and the methods of butchering and cooking. Wild animals such as
deer Deer or true deer are hoofed ruminant mammals forming the family (biology), family Cervidae. The two main groups of deer are the Cervinae, including the muntjac, the elk (wapiti), the red deer, and the fallow deer; and the Capreolinae, includi ...
are typically leaner than farm animals, leading those concerned about fat content to choose game (food), game such as
venison Venison originally meant the meat Meat is animal flesh that is eaten as food. Humans have hunted and killed animals for meat since prehistoric times. The advent of civilization allowed the domestication of animals such as chickens, sheep, ...

venison
. Decades of breeding meat animals for fatness is being reversed by consumer demand for meat with less fat. The fatty deposits that exist with the muscle fibers in meats soften meat when it is cooked and improve the flavor through chemical changes initiated through heat that allow the protein and fat molecules to interact. The fat, when cooked with meat, also makes the meat seem juicier. The nutritional contribution of the fat is mainly calories as opposed to protein. As fat content rises, the meat's contribution to nutrition declines. In addition, there is cholesterol associated with fat surrounding the meat. The cholesterol is a lipid associated with the kind of saturated fat found in meat. The increase in meat consumption after 1960 is associated with, though not definitively the cause of, significant imbalances of fat and cholesterol in the human diet. 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.


Production

Meat is produced by killing an animal and cutting flesh out of it. These procedures are called Animal slaughter, slaughter and butchery, respectively. There is ongoing research into producing In vitro meat, meat ''in vitro''; that is, outside of animals.


Transport

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''. Unnecessary stress in transport may adversely affect the quality of the meat. 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. 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.


Slaughter

Animals are usually slaughtered by being first stunned and then exsanguination, 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 a gun or a captive bolt pistol, or shocking them with electric current. In most forms of ritual slaughter, stunning is not allowed. Draining as much blood as possible from the carcass is necessary because blood causes the meat to have an unappealing appearance and is a breeding ground for microorganisms. The exsanguination is accomplished by severing the carotid artery and the jugular vein in cattle and sheep, and the anterior vena cava in pigs. The act of slaughtering animals for meat, or of raising or transporting animals for slaughter, may engender both psychological stress and physical trauma in the people involved. Additionally, slaughterhouse workers are exposed to noise of between 76 and 100 Decibel, dB from the screams of animals being killed. 80 dB is the threshold at which the wearing of ear protection is recommended.


Dressing and cutting

After exsanguination, the carcass is dressed; that is, the head, feet, hide (except hogs and some veal), excess fat, viscera and
offal Offal (), also called variety meats, pluck or organ meats, is the Organ (anatomy), organs of a butchered animal. The word does not refer to a particular list of edible organs, which varies by culture and region, but usually excludes muscle. Offal ...

offal
are removed, leaving only bones and edible muscle. 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. The dressing and cutting sequence, long a province of manual labor, is progressively being fully automated.


Conditioning

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. During the first day after death, glycolysis continues until the accumulation of lactic acid causes the pH to reach about 5.5. The remaining glycogen, about 18 g per kg, is believed to increase the water-holding capacity and tenderness of the flesh when cooked. ''Rigor mortis'' sets in a few hours after death as Adenosine triphosphate, ATP is used up, causing actin and myosin to combine into rigid actomyosin and lowering the meat's water-holding capacity, causing it to lose water ("weep"). 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 – hence again the need to prevent pre-slaughter stress in the animal. Over time, the muscle proteins Denaturation (biochemistry), denature in varying degree, with the exception of the collagen and elastin of connective tissue, 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.'' As the muscle pigment myoglobin denatures, its iron oxidation, oxidates, which may cause a brown discoloration near the surface of the meat. 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 decomposition of muscle fat and protein.


Additives

When meat is industrially processed in preparation of consumption, it may be enriched with Food additive, additives to protect or modify its flavor or color, to improve its tenderness, juiciness or cohesiveness, or to aid with its Meat preservation, preservation. Meat additives include the following: * Salt is the most frequently used additive in meat processing. It imparts flavor but also inhibits microbial growth, extends the product's shelf life and helps emulsifier, emulsifying finely processed products, such as sausages. Ready-to-eat meat products normally contain about 1.5 to 2.5 percent salt. Salt water or similar substances may also be injected into
poultry Poultry () are domesticated bird Birds are a group of warm-blooded vertebrates constituting the class (biology), class Aves , characterised by feathers, toothless beaked jaws, the Oviparity, laying of Eggshell, hard-shelled eggs, a hi ...

poultry
meat to improve the taste and increase the weight, in a process called plumping. * Nitrite is used in curing meat to stabilize the meat's color and flavor, and inhibits the growth of spore-forming microorganisms such as ''Clostridium botulinum, C. botulinum''. The use of nitrite's precursor nitrate is now limited to a few products such as dry sausage, prosciutto or parma ham. * Phosphates used in meat processing are normally alkaline polyphosphates such as sodium tripolyphosphate. They are used to increase the water-binding and emulsifying ability of meat proteins, but also limit lipid oxidation and flavor loss, and reduce microbial growth. * Erythorbate or its equivalent ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is used to stabilize the color of cured meat. * Sweeteners such as sugar or corn syrup impart a sweet flavor, bind water and assist surface browning during cooking in the Maillard reaction. * Seasonings impart or modify flavor. They include spices or oleoresins extracted from them, herbs, vegetables and essential oils. * Flavorings such as monosodium glutamate impart or strengthen a particular flavor. * Tenderizing, Tenderizers break down collagens to make the meat more palatable for consumption. They include proteolytic enzymes, acids, salt and phosphate. * Dedicated antimicrobials include lactic acid, lactic, citric acid, citric and acetic acid, sodium diacetate, acidified sodium chloride or calcium sulfate, cetylpyridinium chloride, activated lactoferrin, Sodium lactate, sodium or potassium lactate, or bacteriocins such as nisin. * Antioxidants include a wide range of chemicals that limit lipid oxidation, which creates an undesirable "off flavor", in precooked meat products. * Acidifiers, most often lactic or citric acid, can impart a tangy or tart flavor note, extend shelf-life, tenderize fresh meat or help with protein Denaturation (biochemistry), denaturation and moisture release in dried meat. They substitute for the process of natural fermentation that acidifies some meat products such as hard salami or prosciutto.


Misidentification

With the rise of complex supply chains, including cold chains, in developed economies, the distance between the farmer or fisherman and customer has grown, increasing the possibility for intentional and unintentional misidentification of meat at various points in the supply chain. In 2013, reports emerged across Europe that products labelled as containing beef 2013 meat adulteration scandal, actually contained horse meat. In February 2013 a study was published showing that about one-third of raw fish are misidentified across the United States.Juliet Eilperin and Tim Carman for the Washington Post. February 21, 2013
One-third of seafood mislabeled, study finds


Imitation

Various forms of imitation meat have been created for people who wish not to eat meat but still want to taste its flavor and texture. Meat imitates are typically some form of processed soybean (tofu, tempeh), but they can also be based on wheat gluten (food), wheat gluten, Pea protein, pea protein isolate, or even fungi (quorn (food product), quorn).


Environmental impact

Various environmental effects are associated with meat production. Among these are greenhouse gas emissions, fossil energy use, water use, water quality changes, and effects on grazed ecosystems. The livestock sector may be the largest source of water pollution (due to animal wastes, fertilizers, pesticides), and it contributes to emergence of antibiotic resistance. It accounts for over 8% of global human water use. It is a significant driver of Holocene extinction, biodiversity loss, as it causes deforestation, ocean Dead zone (ecology), dead zones, land degradation, pollution, and overfishing. The occurrence, nature and significance of environmental effects varies among livestock production systems. Grazing of livestock can be beneficial for some wildlife species, but not for others. Targeted grazing of livestock is used as a food-producing alternative to herbicide use in some vegetation management.


Land use

Meat production is by far the biggest cause of land use, as it accounts for nearly 40% of the global land surface. Just in the contiguous United States, 34% of its land area () are used as pasture and rangeland, mostly feeding livestock, not counting of cropland (20%), some of which is used for producing feed for livestock. Roughly 75% of Deforestation, deforested land around the globe is used for
livestock Livestock are the domesticated Domestication is a sustained multi-generational relationship in which one group of organisms assumes a significant degree of influence over the reproduction and care of another group to secure a more predictable ...
pasture.


Climate change

The rising global consumption of emission intensity, carbon-intensive meat products has "exploded the global carbon footprint of agriculture," according to some top scientists. Meat production is responsible for 14.5% and possibly up to 51% of the world's anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. Some nations show very different impacts to counterparts within the same group, with Brazil and Australia having emissions over 200% higher than the average of their respective income groups and driven by meat consumption. According to the ''Assessing the Environmental Impacts of Consumption and Production'' report produced by United Nations Environment Programme's (UNEP) international panel for sustainable resource management, a worldwide transition in the direction of a meat and dairy free diet is indispensable if adverse global climate change were to be prevented. A 2019 report in ''The Lancet'' recommended that global meat (and sugar) consumption be reduced by 50 percent to Climate change mitigation, mitigate climate change. Meat consumption in Western societies needs to be reduced by up to 90% according to a 2018 study published in ''Nature (journal), Nature''. The 2019 special report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change advocated for significantly reducing meat consumption, particularly in wealthy countries, in order to mitigate and adapt to climate change.


Biodiversity loss

Meat consumption is considered one of the primary contributors of the Holocene extinction, sixth mass extinction. A 2017 study by the World Wildlife Fund found that 60% of global biodiversity loss is attributable to meat-based diets, in particular from the vast scale of feed crop cultivation needed to rear tens of billions of farm animals for human consumption puts an enormous strain on natural resources resulting in a wide-scale loss of lands and species. Currently, livestock make up 60% of the Biomass (ecology), biomass of all mammals on earth, followed by humans (36%) and wild mammals (4%). In November 2017, 15,364 world scientists signed a World Scientists' Warning to Humanity, Warning to Humanity calling for, among other things, drastically diminishing our per capita consumption of meat and "dietary shifts towards mostly plant-based foods". The 2019 ''Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services'', released by IPBES, also recommended reductions in meat consumption in order to mitigate biodiversity loss. A 2021 Chatham House report asserted that a significant shift towards plant-based diets would free up the land to allow for the restoration of ecosystems and thriving biodiversity. A July 2018 study in ''Science (journal), Science'' says that meat consumption is set to rise as the human population increases along with affluence, which will increase greenhouse gas emissions and further reduce biodiversity.


Reducing environmental impact

The environmental impact of meat production can be reduced by conversion of human-inedible residues of food crops. Manure from meat-producing livestock is used as fertilizer; it may be composted before application to food crops. Substitution of animal manures for synthetic fertilizers in crop production can be environmentally significant, as between 43 and 88 MJ of fossil fuel energy are used per kg of nitrogen in manufacture of synthetic nitrogenous fertilizers.


Spoilage and 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 Bacteria (; common noun bacteria, singular bacterium) are a type of Cell (biology), biological cell. They constitute a large domain (biology), domain of prokaryotic microorganisms. Typically a few micrometres in length, bacteria have a Bacte ...
and
fungi A fungus (plural The plural (sometimes list of glossing abbreviations, abbreviated ), in many languages, is one of the values of the grammatical number, grammatical category of number. The plural of a noun typically denotes a quantity great ...

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 safety, food preservation and food 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.


Methods of preparation

Fresh meat can be cooked for immediate consumption, or be processed, that is, treated for longer-term Food preservation, preservation and later consumption, possibly after further preparation. Fresh meat cuts or processed cuts may produce iridescence, commonly thought to be due to spoilage but actually caused by structural coloration and diffraction of the light. A common additive to processed meats for both preservation and the prevention of discoloration is sodium nitrite. This substance is a source of health concerns because it may form carcinogenic nitrosamines when heated. Meat is prepared in many ways, as steaks, in stews, fondue, 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 (food), smoking, which is the process of seasoning, flavoring, cooking, or food preservation, preserving
food Food is any substance consumed to provide nutritional support for an organism In biology, an organism (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ὀργανισμός, ''organismos'') is any individual contiguous system that embodies the Life#Biology ...

food
by exposing it to the smoke from burning or smoldering plant materials, most often wood. In Europe, alder is the traditional smoking wood, but oak is more often used now, and beech to a lesser extent. In North America, hickory, mesquite, oak, pecan, alder, maple, and fruit-tree woods are commonly used for smoking. Meat can also be cured by pickling, preserving in salt or brine (see salted meat and other curing (food preservation), curing methods). Other kinds of meat are marinade, marinated and barbecued, or simply boiled, roasting, roasted, or frying, fried. Meat is generally eaten cooked, but many recipes call for raw beef, veal or fish (tartare). Steak tartare is a meat dish made from finely chopped or minced raw food, raw beef or horse meat. Meat is often spiced or seasoned, particularly with meat products such as sausages. Meat dishes are usually described by their source (animal and part of body) and method of preparation (e.g., a beef rib). Meat is a typical base for making sandwiches. Popular varieties of sandwich meat include
ham Ham is pork Pork is the culinary name for the meat of a domestic pig The domestic pig (''Sus scrofa domesticus'' or only ''Sus domesticus''), often called swine, hog, or simply pig when there is no need to distinguish it from other ...

ham
, pork, salami and other sausages, and beef, such as steak, roast beef, corned beef, pepperoni, and pastrami. Meat can also be molded or pressed (common for products that include offal, such as haggis and scrapple) and canning, canned.


Health

There is concern and debate regarding the potential association of meat, in particular red and processed meat, with a variety of health risks. A study of 400,000 subjects conducted by the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition and published in 2013 showed "a moderate positive association between processed meat consumption and mortality, in particular due to cardiovascular diseases, but also to cancer." In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer of the World Health Organization (WHO) classified processed meat as carcinogenic to humans (Group 1), based on "sufficient evidence in humans that the consumption of processed meat causes colorectal cancer." In the same year, the Agency classified red meat as ''probably'' (Group 2A) carcinogenic to humans. A 1999 Meta-analysis, metastudy combined data from five studies from western countries. The metastudy reported mortality ratios, where lower numbers indicated fewer deaths, for fish eaters to be 0.82, vegetarians to be 0.84, occasional meat eaters to be 0.84. Regular meat eaters and vegans shared the highest mortality ratio of 1.00. In response to changing prices as well as health concerns about saturated fat and cholesterol (see lipid hypothesis), consumers have altered their consumption of various meats. A United States Department of Agriculture, USDA report points out that consumption of beef in the United States between 1970–1974 and 1990–1994 dropped by 21%, while consumption of Chicken (food), chicken increased by 90%. During the same period of time, the price of chicken dropped by 14% relative to the price of beef. From 1995–1996, beef consumption increased due to supply and demand, higher supplies and lower prices. The ''2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans'' asked men and teenage boys to increase their consumption of vegetables or other underconsumed foods (fruits, whole grains, and dairy) while reducing intake of protein foods (meats, poultry, and eggs) that they currently overconsume. The health effects of red meat are unclear as of 2019. In 2021, a study of data on half a million U.K. citizens shows associations between high levels of meat intake with risks of some of 25 common conditions including ischaemic heart disease and diabetes as well as a lower risk of iron deficiency anaemia. Available unde
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A cohort study with over 130,000 participants published a few days later, also found that a higher intake of processed meat was associated with "a higher risk of mortality and major CVD". However, while some of the results did control for body mass index various other factors that were not controlled for may confound the associations and research of underlying mechanisms may be required for fully robust conclusions.


Contamination

Various toxic compounds can contaminate meat, including heavy metals, mycotoxins,
pesticide Pesticides are substances that are meant to control pests Pest or The Pest may refer to: Science and medicine * Pest (organism), an animal or plant detrimental to humans or human concerns ** Weed, a plant considered undesirable * Infectious di ...
residues, dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs). Processed, smoked and cooked meat may contain carcinogens such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Toxins may be introduced to meat as part of animal feed, as veterinary drug residues, or during processing and cooking. Often, these compounds can be metabolized in the body to form harmful by-products. Negative effects depend on the individual genome, diet, and history of the consumer. Any chemical's toxicity is also dependent on the dose and timing of exposure.


Cancer

There are concerns about a relationship between the consumption of meat, in particular processed and red meat, and increased cancer risk. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a specialized agency of the World Health Organization (WHO), classified processed meat (e.g., bacon, ham, hot dogs, sausages) as, "''carcinogenic to humans'' (Group 1), based on ''sufficient evidence'' in humans that the consumption of processed meat causes colorectal cancer." IARC also classified red meat as "''probably carcinogenic to humans'' (Group 2A), based on ''limited evidence'' that the consumption of red meat causes cancer in humans and ''strong'' mechanistic evidence supporting a carcinogenic effect."


Heart disease

The correlation of consumption to increased risk of heart disease is controversial. Some studies fail to find a link between red meat consumption and heart disease (although the same study found statistically significant correlation between the consumption of processed meat and coronary heart disease). A large cohort study of Seventh-Day Adventists in California 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. This study compared adventists to the general population and not other Seventh Day Adventists who ate meat and did not specifically distinguish red and processed meat in its assessment. A major Harvard University study 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 50 g (less than 2 ounces) 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 explain the higher risk of heart disease and diabetes seen with processed meats, but not with unprocessed red meats." A 2017 meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials found that eating more than 0.5 servings of meat per-day does not increase lipids, blood pressure, lipoproteins, or other heart disease risk factors. A scientific review concluded that, except for poultry, at 50 g/day unprocessed red and processed meat appear to be risk factors for ischemic heart disease, increasing the risk by about 9 and 18 % respectively.


Obesity

Prospective analysis suggests that meat consumption is positively associated with weight gain in men and women. The National Cattlemen's Beef Association countered by stating that meat consumption may not be associated with fat gain. In response, the authors of the original study controlled for just abdominal fat across a sample of 91,214 people and found that even when controlling for calories and lifestyle factors, meat consumption is linked with obesity. Additional studies and reviews have confirmed the finding that greater meat consumption is positively linked with greater weight gain even when controlling for calories, and lifestyle factors.


Bacterial contamination

Bacterial contamination has been seen with meat products. A 2011 study by the Translational Genomics Research Institute showed that nearly half (47%) of the meat and
poultry Poultry () are domesticated bird Birds are a group of warm-blooded vertebrates constituting the class (biology), class Aves , characterised by feathers, toothless beaked jaws, the Oviparity, laying of Eggshell, hard-shelled eggs, a hi ...

poultry
in U.S. grocery stores were contaminated with ''Staphylococcus aureus, S. aureus'', with more than half (52%) of those bacteria resistant to antibiotics. A 2018 investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and ''The Guardian'' found that around 15 percent of the US population suffers from foodborne illnesses every year. The investigation also highlighted unsanitary conditions in US-based meat plants, which included meat products covered in excrement and abscesses "filled with pus".


Cooking

Meat can transmit certain diseases, but complete cooking and avoiding recontamination reduces this possibility. 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. While eating muscle meat raw may be the only way to avoid HCAs fully, the National Cancer Institute states that cooking meat below creates "negligible amounts" of HCAs. Also, microwaving meat before cooking may reduce HCAs by 90%. 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.


Sociology

Meat is part of the human diet in most cultures, where it often has symbolic meaning and important social functions. Some people choose not to eat meat (vegetarianism) or any food made from animals (veganism). The reasons for not eating all or some meat may include ethical objections to killing animals for food, health concerns, environmental concerns or religious dietary laws.


Ethics

Ethical issues regarding the consumption of meat include objecting to the act of killing animals or to the intensive agriculture, agricultural practices used in meat production. Reasons for objecting to killing animals for consumption may include animal rights, environmental ethics, or an aversion to inflicting pain or harm on other sentience, sentient creatures. Some people, while not vegetarians, refuse to eat the flesh of certain animals (such as cows, pigs, cats, dogs, horses, or rabbits) due to cultural or religious traditions. Some people eat only the flesh of animals that they believe have not been mistreated, and abstain from the flesh of animals raised in Factory farming, factory farms or else abstain from particular products, such as foie gras and veal. Some techniques of intensive agriculture may be cruel to animals: foie gras is a food product made from the liver of Domestic duck, ducks or Domestic goose, geese that have been force feeding, force fed corn to fatten the organ; veal is criticised because the veal calves may be highly restricted in movement, have unsuitable flooring, spend their entire lives indoors, experience prolonged deprivation (sensory, social, and exploratory), and be more susceptible to high amounts of stress and disease.


Religious traditions

The religion of Jainism has always opposed eating meat, and there are also Buddhist vegetarianism, schools of Buddhism and Hinduism#Vegetarian Hindus, Hinduism that condemn the eating of meat. Jewish dietary rules (''Kashrut'') allow certain (''kosher'') meat and forbid other (''treif''). The rules include prohibitions on the consumption of unclean animals (such as pork, shellfish including mollusca and crustacea, and most insects), and mixtures of meat and milk. Similar rules apply in Islamic dietary laws: The Quran explicitly forbids meat from animals that die naturally, blood, the meat of swine (porcine animals, pigs), and animals dedicated to other than Allah (either undedicated or dedicated to idolatry, idols) which are haram as opposed to halal. Sikhism forbids meat of slowly slaughtered animals ("Kutha meat, kutha") and prescribes killing animals with a single strike ("jhatka"), but some Sikh groups oppose eating any meat.


Psychology

Research in applied psychology has investigated practices of meat eating in relation to morality, emotions, cognition, and personality characteristics. Psychological research suggests meat eating is correlated with masculinity, Social dominance orientation, support for social hierarchy, and reduced Big Five personality traits#Openness to experience, openness to experience. Research into the consumer psychology of meat is relevant both to meat industry marketing and to advocates of reduced meat consumption.


Gender

Unlike most other food, meat is not perceived as gender-neutral, and is particularly associated with men and masculinity. Sociological research, ranging from African tribal societies to contemporary barbecues, indicates that men are much more likely to participate in preparing meat than other food. This has been attributed to the influence of traditional male gender roles, in view of a "male familiarity with killing" (Jack Goody, Goody) or roasting being more violent as opposed to boiling (Claude Lévi-Strauss, Lévi-Strauss). By and large, at least in modern societies, men also tend to consume more meat than women, and men often prefer red meat whereas women tend to prefer chicken and fish.


Philosophy

The founders of Western philosophy disagreed about the
ethics of eating meat Conversations regarding the ethics of eating meat are focused on whether or not it is moral to eat non-human animals Animals (also called Metazoa) are multicellular Multicellular organisms are organism In biology, an organism (f ...
. Plato's ''Republic'' has Socrates describe the ideal state as vegetarian. Pythagoras believed that humans and animals were equal and therefore disapproved of meat consumption, as did Plutarch, whereas Zeno of Elea, Zeno and Epicurus were
vegetarian Vegetarianism is the practice of abstaining from the consumption of meat Meat is animal flesh that is eaten as food. Humans have hunted and killed animals for meat since prehistoric times. The advent of civilization allowed the domestica ...

vegetarian
but allowed meat-eating in their philosophy. Conversely, Aristotle's ''Politics (Aristotle), Politics'' assert that animals, as inferior beings, exist to serve humans, including as food. Augustine drew on Aristotle to argue that the universe's natural hierarchy allows humans to eat animals, and animals to eat plants. Age of Enlightenment, Enlightenment philosophers were likewise divided. Descartes wrote that animals are merely animated machines, and Kant considered them inferior beings for lack of discernment; means rather than ends. But Voltaire and Rousseau disagreed. The latter argued that meat-eating is a social rather than a natural act, because children are not interested in meat. Later philosophers examined the changing practices of eating meat in the modern age as part of a process of detachment from animals as living beings. Norbert Elias, for instance, noted that in medieval times cooked animals were brought to the table whole, but that since the Renaissance only the edible parts are served, which are no longer recognizably part of an animal. Modern eaters, according to :fr:Noëlie Vialles, Noëlie Vialles, demand an "Ellipsis (linguistics), ellipsis" between meat and dead animals; for instance, calves' eyes are no longer considered a delicacy as in the Middle Ages, but provoke disgust. Even in the English language, distinctions emerged between animals and their meat, such as between cattle and beef, pigs and pork. Fernand Braudel wrote that since the European diet of the 15th and 16th century was particularly heavy in meat, European colonialism helped export meat-eating across the globe, as colonized peoples took up the culinary habits of their colonizers, which they associated with wealth and power.


See also

* Alligator meat * Bushmeat * Carnism * Culinary name * Dog meat * Food industry * Food science * Cartilage, Gristle * List of domesticated meat animals * List of meat dishes * List of foods * Meat Atlas * Meat on the bone * Meat-free days * Mechanically separated meat * Mystery meat * Roadkill cuisine * Tendon * Cat meat


References


External links

*
American Meat Science Association website

Qualitionary – Legal Definitions – Meat

IARC Monographs Q&A

IARC Monographs Q&A on the carcinogenicity of the consumption of red meat and processed meat.
{{Authority control Meat, Types of food Meat industry