Fish are your friends, even when they’re your food. It’s true that worms and other sushi parasites have increased 283-fold over the last 40 years. Yet at the end of the day, you’re better off eating raw fish than eating raw meat. 

Many people take this as a given and don’t think about why. If you’re interested in eating right, you have to know what the differences are between raw fish and raw meat. 

Why can you eat raw fish but not raw meat? What kinds of microbes are in raw meat and fish? Does refrigerating or freezing your meat help? 

Answer these questions and you can figure out the right ways to eat raw fish and meat. Here is your quick guide.

Bacteria and Pathogens

Microbes like E. coli live in the intestines of most animals, including humans. Though ground meat comes from muscle, the intestines may break during the butchering process.

This allows microbes to burrow into the meat, which makes raw meat dangerous. Most bacteria do remain on the surface of the meat, so the cooking process will kill them. Follow recipes closely and compare the recipe in this link to others so you kill bacteria when you cook your meat.

However, fish do not have these microbes. Even if you eat the organs of fish, you will not get sick. 


Butchers and meat processing plants use the same tools for all of their cuts. They chop dozens of cows or pigs with the same knives, and then they grind the meat through one meat grinder. 

Microbes on the outside of meat can travel onto the knives or grinder. They can then enter into different pieces of meat. You can eat raw pork and develop an E. coli infection from bacteria that came from a cow. 

Sushi is not ground up like ground meat is. Salmon is prepared separately from tuna, shrimp, and other seafood, which diminishes the risk of cross-contamination.


After cutting pieces of meat, butchers package the meat and put it in refrigerators. Refrigeration keeps meat cold, preventing bacteria from spreading.

But refrigerators are not cold enough to kill the bacteria. Once the meat reaches room temperature, the bacteria can spread and become active, making a person sick. 

Most fish live in very cold waters, which do not allow bacteria to live and reproduce. After processing, seafood is then frozen and kept inside a freezer. Freezing temperatures are cold enough to kill bacteria.

So Why Can You Eat Raw Fish but Not Raw Meat? 

Many people ask, “Why can you eat raw fish but not raw meat?” Though fish has parasites in it, meat has a lot more. Butchers cut open intestines by accident, spilling bacteria onto their meat. 

Butchers use the same meat grinders and knives to prepare their meat, spreading bacteria through all cuts. Cuts of meat then go in the refrigerator, and bacteria can lie in wait. Fish processing is far cleaner and freezing fish destroys bacteria. 

Be mindful of all the threats in your food. Read more food safety guides by following our coverage.