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Fermented Meat?

I cannot help but be drawn to the idea of high or fermented meat. The anecdotal accounts of its benefits can be quite hard to believe and I cannot help but be curious. Obviously, there is a lot of anxiety about this from cultural conditioning even from those within the raw paleo community itself and a lack of knowledge about how this process works.

When people talk about vegetable fermentation and the fermentation of meats in the form of bacon, pepperoni, and sausage they are usually referring to an anaerobic process using lactobacillus. This culture must dominate and overtake the environment in order to make it so that pathogenic anaerobic bacteria are not able to establish themselves. This is why in the production of bacon and other cured meats, nitrates/nitrites are used (or celery juice which has nitrates/nitrites). These cured meats are being fermented in an anerobic environment where botulinum can thrive and it has been shown that nitrates/nitrites can inhibit the spread of such pathogenic bacteria.

When people discuss high meat, however, they are usually referring to meat that has gone through a process of aerobic decomposition. This is why in every recipe I have seen it is necessary to air out the meat frequently so that the air is exchanged and the environment is not allowed to become anaerobic. This exposure to oxygen will make it so that botulinum, among other things, cannot gain a foothold on the surface since most pathogenic bacteria are obligate or facultative anaerobes. Unfortunately, I have been unable to find much information on what bacteria in particular are decomposing the meat in the process of producing high meat and what role, if any, facultative anaerobes have in this process.

In any case, this produces an interesting paradigm shift in the way I look at meat and its relation to bacterial pathogens. It seems that, besides buying meat from a clean source, it is important to ensure that the meat is kept in an environment that inhibits the growth of anaerobic bacteria and if this is done then, assuming your digestive health is in order, you should be able to consume raw or high meat. Whether your digestive health is in order is the big question that seems to crop up over and over again. On the raw paleo forums you often hear people suggest to others that they should not eat fermented meat to help with digestion (some suggest the opposite) and that they should not eat it if they have not been doing a raw paleo diet for anywhere from a few months to a year. The idea is that if your digestion or immune system is compromised then you are more likely to get food poisoning from high meat that might not otherwise have given someone food poisoning. This leads me to wonder whether it would be wise for someone to eat high meat who is not on a raw paleo diet but it seems that this is somewhat inconsistent and is like telling someone not to eat sauerkraut unless they’ve been eating raw cabbage for a while. Right now I am not sure how to take such warnings. However, the link with digestive health makes sense considering that a lot of pathogenic bacteria we ingest on a daily basis is destroyed by our digestive juices. If you have bad digestion and eat a fermented meat product with bacteria you’ve never encountered before and your stomach acid is low then there lies the possibility for food poisoning. At the same time, however, eating fermented foods is supposed to help with digestion by acting as a probiotic agent. Right now I cannot tell whether it would have a net positive or negative effect on someone who is not in the self selected group of raw paleo forum commenters; someone like me who is more interested in a mixed raw and cooked paleo diet who still has some digestive annoyances.

 

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Filed under: Bacteria, Diet, Digestion, Fermentation, Fermented meat, High meat

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