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Two raw pieces of meat

Meat (from Old High German  fleisc ) generally refers to the soft tissues of humans and animals . In particular, the term stands for parts of mammals and birds that are used for human nutrition . In addition to muscle tissue with adipose and connective tissue and cartilage tissue, this also includes tendons and certain internal organs . In medicine, meat can also mean granulation tissue . A description is meat and for designation for the land under food soft tissue exchange warm animals such as fish , crabs , clams and snails used; are common compound words such as crab or clam meat .

A distinction is made between the types of meat (animal species) and the types of meat, the different parts of a type of meat.


A still life with meat, Nature morte by Claude Monet (1864).

The term meat is legally defined for the movement of goods in the European Union and Switzerland . Under European law, the term meat according to Regulation (EC) No. 853/2004 refers to all edible parts (including blood ) of ungulates (domestic animals of the species beef, pork, sheep and goat as well as solipeds kept as domestic animals ), poultry , lagoon animals and wild game .

According to the guiding principles for meat and meat products in the German Food Code and the Austrian Food Code , meat in the general sense describes all parts of slaughtered or hunted warm-blooded animals that are intended for human consumption. According to this definition, e.g. B. also giblets and rinds below. In particular, the term stands for muscle meat, i.e. only skeletal muscles with attached or stored fat, connective tissue and stored smaller animal components. In the term meat in the declaration of the ingredients of sausage or other meat products, the percentage of fat and connective tissue is limited.

In terms of veterinary law, the Austrian Food Book also understands the products made from it and also excludes the following:

“Parts that cannot be used for human enjoyment are hooves, claws, horns, hair, bristles, feathers, the inedible parts of the skin, eyes, ear cutouts, anal cutouts, pubic area, vagina, uterus, fetuses, the male member, lactating udders, the umbilical pouch of pigs, beef and pork tonsils, the large intestine of solipeds and stinging meat (see other slaughtering cases A. and specified risk material (SRM). "

- Federal Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, Health and Consumer Protection - Vienna : Codex Chapter B 14 - Meat and Meat Products. IV edition


In the West Germanic languages referred Middle High German  vleisch , Old High German  meat- human and animal flesh in general, whereas Old Icelandic flesk [i], Swedish flæsk only pork / bacon means. Extra-Germanic relations of the word meat are not secured.


Types of meat

The respective designation of the type of meat comes from the type of animal , the origin, the sex or the age of the animal, e.g. B. Sheep meat, mutton, lamb , Kobe beef , etc. Exotic types of meat are, for example, bison, reindeer, kangaroo, alligators, dog or rat meat, etc. Depending on the breed, living conditions, gender and age, the meat composition of the same animal species is different. In cattle, for example, the composition and thus the quality of the same meat parts are completely different for heifers, bulls or veal.

The different types of meat differ visually (meat color, fat content and distribution), sensory (smell, taste and meat aroma), in the consistency and texture of the meat. Worldwide, the meat of warm-blooded animals comes mainly from five species : beef, pork, sheep, chicken and turkey.

Types of meat

There is no binding classification for differentiating between types of meat.

The culinary art differentiates between slaughtered meat , game meat and poultry meat as well as fish meat , crab meat and mollusc meat (mussel meat , oyster meat , snail meat , squid meat );

Older literature divided the types of meat into warm-blooded animals, fish, and crustaceans and molluscs. A distinction is also made between red and white meat. The color difference results mainly from a different content of myoglobin . This is responsible for the transport of oxygen within the muscle, especially to the muscle cells ( myofibrils ). Heat denatures the myoglobin to what is known as metmyoglobin , which means that roasted or cooked meat takes on a grayish to gray-brown color.

The fibers of the meat can run lengthways, crossways or crossed, whereby the "crossed course" makes the meat most tender due to the small distance between the fibers. Longitudinal fibers, on the other hand, make the meat tough.

Production, slaughter and processing

Slaughtered animals in Germany, 2012, Meat Atlas 2014, p. 21

Slaughter cattle are produced and kept for meat production . By fattening animals a strong meat growth is to be achieved in the shortest possible time with the animals. Since area is a cost factor, conventional animal production relies on intensive animal husbandry, in which the animals can be kept in the smallest possible space with a high level of mechanical use. The modern industrialized meat production takes place in large firms instead, thereby fattening animals is space-saving and with great number of animals ( livestock farming ) is performed.

In Germany slaughter takes place almost exclusively in state-controlled slaughterhouses , so that the cattle have to be transported from the fattening facility there. A distinction is made between warm slaughter (the meat of the animal is processed immediately after it has been killed, without letting it cool down beforehand) and cold slaughter.

After slaughter, the muscles become stiff , the pH value in the muscle drops and the muscle fibers harden. During rigidity, the meat is tough and dry and unsuitable for cooking. The onset and duration of muscle rigidity depend on the ambient temperature. The rigidity usually ends after about 24 hours, the pH value rises again and the meat becomes tender and juicy. In order to achieve a high enjoyment value should some day the meat depend . Due to the biochemical, enzymatic and microbiological processes that take place during meat maturation , both the tenderness and the characteristic aroma in the meat increase.

In Switzerland, only meat that has been chilled, frozen or quick-frozen for preservation purposes, including vacuum-packed meat wrapped in a controlled atmosphere, may be designated as fresh meat . Unprocessed meat only lasts for a very limited time at room temperature , which is why an uninterrupted cold chain is necessary, especially in economies that are strongly based on the division of labor, such as the industrialized nations , in order to avoid bacterial spoilage . However, preservation methods such as boiling , curing , smoking , drying or fermenting ( awl sausage , salami ) of the meat can achieve a shelf life of several weeks to months at room temperature , or a combination thereof. Longer preservation is also possible using various packaging methods, for example vacuum packaging .


Worldwide, meat with a total value of around 108.5 billion euros was traded across borders in 2018. The USA was the most important international export country in terms of export value, ahead of Brazil and Australia.


The largest meat consumers (2009)
 rank  country Per capita consumption (in kg / year)
1 United States 120.2
2 Kuwait 119.2
3 Australia 111.5
4th Bahamas 109.5
5 Luxembourg 107.9
6th New Zealand 106.4
7th Austria 102.0
8th French Polynesia 101.9
9 Bermuda 101.7
10 Argentina 98.3
21st Germany 88.1
43 Switzerland 74.7

The food meat has a high nutrient density due to its content of high quality proteins ( biological value : 85-90%), minerals (including selenium , zinc , manganese and iron in particularly easily absorbable form) and vitamins (especially: thiamine , riboflavin , Vitamin B 6 , B 12 , D , E ). Pure lean meat contains 1–3% fat, meat “as grown” 1–25% fat. The fat of the most important types of meat consists of 5–14% polyunsaturated fatty acids . The cholesterol content of muscle meat is 45–70 mg per 100 g, offal can contain up to 250 mg per 100 g. In addition to muscle protein, meat also contains small amounts of connective tissue substances ( collagen , elastin ), enzymes, high-energy compounds (e.g. ATP ) and nucleic acids . Purines occur in muscle meat with 150–160 mg per 100 g, and in offal with up to 380 mg per 100 g. Meat also contains traces of carbohydrates . The water content averages 75%, with high-fat meat containing less water than low-fat meat.

Humans consume meat through consumption, production of animal feed and industrial use. This also leads to losses that help determine the amount of meat consumed. The average worldwide per capita consumption in 2009 was 47.7 kg.

Meat consumption in Germany visualized by state and gender of the consumers (source: Fleischatlas / NVZ )

Before the Neolithic Revolution , animal foods such as meat and fish were in the foreground in human nutrition . The rise of agriculture gave people better access to food of plant origin. The sedentary lifestyle and the increase in population limited meat consumption to the occasional consumption of domestic animals and only small amounts of wild animals. It was not until the eradication of predators from human settlement areas at the beginning of the 20th century that meat from wild animals and domestic animals could be consumed again.

Meat consumption is different in the different countries of the world. Among other things, this is due to culture and religion. Meat consumption increases with the gross national income . According to a projection by the World Food Organization (FAO), per capita consumption averaged 42.5 kilograms per year worldwide.

Movements such as vegetarianism or veganism turn away from meat consumption . Flexitarianism aims at a conscious use of meat .

Further topics


  • Nan Mellinger: meat. Origin and change of a pleasure. A cultural anthropological study. 2nd Edition. Campus Verlag, Frankfurt am Main / New York 2000, ISBN 3-593-36641-X .
  • The big book of meat. Teubner, Munich 2006, ISBN 3-8338-0167-0 .

Web links

Commons : meat  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Meat  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wikibooks: Meat dishes  - learning and teaching materials
Wikiquote: Meat  Quotes

Individual evidence

  1. a b meat. In: Brockhaus Enzyklopädie 2002 digital. Bibliographisches Institut & F. A. Brockhaus, 2002.
  2. meat. In: Brockhaus Kochkunst. 1st edition. Bibliographisches Institut & F. A. Brockhaus, 2008, ISBN 978-3-7653-3281-4 .
  3. Regulation (EC) No. 853/2004 (PDF; 501), accessed on May 25, 2019. For definitions of meat, see Appendix I.
  4. Guidelines for meat and meat products (PDF; 725 kB). In: bmelv.de, accessed on May 28, 2019.
  5. Austrian Food Code: A.1.1 meat. Retrieved January 15, 2019 .
  6. ^ The dictionary of origin (=  Der Duden in twelve volumes . Volume 7 ). Reprint of the 2nd edition. Dudenverlag, Mannheim 1997 ( p. 194 ). See also Friedrich Kluge : Etymological dictionary of the German language . 7th edition. Trübner, Strasbourg 1910 ( p. 140 ).
  7. Gerald Rimbach, Jennifer Nagursky, Helmut F. Erbersdobler: Food and goods knowledge for beginners . Springer-Verlag, 2015, ISBN 978-3-662-46280-5 , pp. 68 ff . ( google.de [accessed on August 21, 2019]).
  8. ^ Gerhard Eisenbrand, Peter Schreier: RÖMPP Lexikon Lebensmittelchemie, 2nd edition, 2006 . Georg Thieme Verlag, 2014, ISBN 978-3-13-179282-2 , p. 371–374 ( google.de [accessed on August 21, 2019]).
  9. Principles for fish, crustaceans and molluscs and their products. In: https://www.bmel.de/SharedDocs/Downloads/Ernaehrung/Lebensmittelbuch/LeitsaetzeFische.html . Retrieved August 21, 2019 .
  10. Principles for meat and meat products. In: https://www.bmel.de/SharedDocs/Downloads/Ernaehrung/Lebensmittelbuch/LeitsaetzeFleisch.html . Retrieved August 21, 2019 .
  11. Hans Szameitat, Reinhold Metz: The cold kitchen . 10th edition. Pfanneberg, Haan-Gruiten 2005, ISBN 3-8057-0487-9 , p. 24 .
  12. Robert Strohecker, Josef Tillmann: Chemical Technology of Food and Beverage . Springer-Verlag, 2013, ISBN 978-3-662-29260-0 , pp. 1 ff . ( google.de [accessed on August 21, 2019]).
  13. Ordinance of the FDHA on food of animal origin (Art. 4 Paragraph 2). In: admin.ch . Retrieved February 9, 2020 .
  14. ^ Trade Map - List of exporters for the selected product (Meat and edible meat offal). Retrieved February 7, 2020 .
  15. Food Supply quantity, FAOSTAT, Rome (kg / capita / yr) , accessed on January 23, 2014.
  16. ^ Salim M. Ali: Meat: From the perspective of world food. Books on Demand, 2010, ISBN 3-8391-8563-7 , p. 14.
  17. ^ Salim M. Ali: Meat: From the perspective of world food. Books on Demand, 2010, ISBN 3-8391-8563-7 , p. 16.
  18. ^ Salim M. Ali: Meat: From the perspective of world food. Books on Demand, 2010, ISBN 3-8391-8563-7 , p. 139.
  19. Meat Atlas 2013 (PDF; 5.1 MB) BUND . Archived from the original on January 21, 2013. Retrieved March 26, 2013.
  20. The “Meat Atlas 2013” ​​shows: A turn in agricultural policy is overdue! (PDF; 5.1 MB) BUND . Archived from the original on January 14, 2013. Retrieved on August 6, 2013.