Muscles Are Meat: Other Factors Affecting Meat Quality

Be aware of the beneficial and harmful microorganisms and temperature issues when processing wild game to keep yourself and your diners safe.

| July 2919

Photo from Adobe Stock/Mat Hayward

Molds and yeasts are fungi that can affect meat quality, although their effect is far less significant than toxins or bacteria. Molds typically cause spoilage in grains, cereals, flour, and nuts that have low moisture content and in fruits that have a low pH. Yeasts are generally involved when a food product contains high amounts of sugar. Yeasts that affect meat are usually not a problem because of the low sugar or carbohydrate content of muscle.

While viruses have the potential to cause foodborne diseases, they generally only affect raw or uncooked shellfish. Viruses are inert and unable to multiply outside a host cell. However, avian influenza (or bird flu as it is commonly known) is of some concern to hunters. Avian influenza is an illness caused by several different strains of influenza viruses that have adapted to a specific host. All known viruses that cause influenza in birds belong to the influenza A virus. If humans contract bird flu, it is usually a result of either handling infected dead birds or from contact with infected fluids. Although it is easy for humans to become infected by birds, it is much more difficult for humans to pass the virus to each other without close and lasting contact. The last recorded incident of bird flu affecting humans in the United States occurred in New York in 2003.

A parasite infection will occur in the live animal before it occurs in a human. There are three parasites that are of major concern to humans: Trichinella spiralis, or trichinosis; Toxoplasma gondii, or toxoplasma; and Anisakis marina, or anisakis. Trichinosis has long been identified as a parasite that can live in swine muscle and be transferred to humans through raw or uncooked pork. Toxoplasma is a small protozoan that exists throughout the world and has been observed in a wide range of birds and mammals. Anisakis is a roundworm parasite found only in fish. Using adequate or recommended cooking temperatures and times will destroy parasites.

Trichinella spiralis photo from Adobe Stock/Caroline K Smith MD



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