Meat Spoilage and Storage

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About
Fresh meat is an unstable food. Once a living muscle has been transformed into a piece of meat it begins to change, both chemically and biologically. The changes that we associate with aging—the generation of flavor and tenderness by enzymes throughout the meat—are desirable. But the changes that take place at the meat surface are generally undesirable. Oxygen in the air and energetic rays of light generate off-flavors and dull color. And meat is a nourishing food for microbes as well as for humans. Given the chance, bacteria will feast on meat surfaces and multiply. The result is both unappetizing and unsafe, since some microbial digesters of dead flesh can also poison or invade the living.