We can read here:

Meat can be eaten when it has gone off (i.e. green), but must be cooked absolutely thoroughly and never reheated. This is an old trick for living on recently dead animals (South African Defense Force and Rhodesian Army).

In the Selous Scout selection course, a baboon would be shot and left in a tree for a few days (plenty of maggots, etc). Recruits had to carve it up, cook it and eat it. I’ve done this with off meat (over a fire) with no problem.

This would suggest that toxins in rotten meat that will not be neutralized by cooking, do not pose a significant health risk. However, the official guidelines are to throw out meat that has been stored at room temperature for more than 2 hours, long before it has gone off.

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    There is a significant gap between "this is a good idea to do casually" and "this is an acceptable risk when you have no alternative because all the food has gone bad". Commented Sep 2, 2021 at 6:06
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    If it is a survival choice between starvation and eating rotten meat, that is the advice. More than 2 hours? Game is typically hung for days. Commented Sep 2, 2021 at 8:23
  • @WeatherVane would keeping it off the ground have a significant effect ... or perhaps more likely, any preparation prior to hanging (such as exsanguination)? Commented Sep 2, 2021 at 9:43
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    Is this a matter about which you are skeptical? There was a similar question on the sister site The Great Outdoors: Can I eat rotten meat and carcass given enough cooking? Commented Sep 2, 2021 at 10:33
  • @WeatherVane control of what's going on is everything in such cases. The difference between botulism is a cosmetic procedure is the degree of control you have over how much toxin goes where... Commented Sep 2, 2021 at 13:14

1 Answer 1


The main reason that it's not recommended to eat meat that's been allowed to grow bacteria (even if you plan to cook it) is to avoid the toxins produced by Staphylococcus aureus:

Man’s respiratory passages, skin and superficial wounds are common sources of S. aureus. When S. aureus is allowed to grow in foods, it can produce a toxin that causes illness. Although cooking destroys the bacteria, the toxin produced is heat stable and may not be destroyed. Staphylococcal food poisoning occurs most often in foods that require hand preparation, such as potato salad, ham salad and sandwich spreads. Sometimes these types of foods are left at room temperature for long periods of time, allowing the bacteria to grow and produce toxin. Good personal hygiene while handling foods will help keep S. aureus out of foods, and refrigeration of raw and cooked foods will prevent the growth of these bacteria if any are present. — Aggie Horticulture: Bacterial Food Poisoning

And, remember: this is just one malady. The link gives a few other examples of bacteria which produce nasty things that can survive cooking, though usually they're not found on meat but other types of food.

And if you found the meat outside (e.g. roadkill), then it's even risker to eat, especially if it's rotten. You would have no idea how the animal was acting before it died, and you may not even know why it died or how long ago. Plus, staph (not to mention other bacteria) can be found in any number of animals: wild animals in Spain, bushmeat in Tanzania, goats and sheep.

  • It is not "the main reason" when "this is just one malady"? Your Staph angle is just one example for why this is a potentially bad idea (ie: can be quite safe if thermal treatment is adequate, and certainly better than starving, but we have that disgust for a reason, although with past preferences, most meat eaten today is 'unripe' as well) Commented Sep 3, 2021 at 9:06
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    @LangLаngС How are you getting "can be quite safe if thermal treatment is adequate" from "the toxin produced is heat stable"? Do you just mean that eating rotten meat has the potential to not kill you?
    – Sneftel
    Commented Sep 3, 2021 at 15:31
  • @Sneftel No. Am saying that the logic expressed in A could use refinement (eg Salmonella freq seems much higher, Botox more deadly?)— that adequate heat kills pathogens adequately. Infection from unraw meat is eliminated, which is a very high risk for rotten-raw; toxins are also reduced, although some of them are indeed too stable in the usual heat range for that. Plus there is a very young cultural preference to observe: consumers often forgo proper ripening and discard/waste perfectly fine (previously even 'better') food. A germophobic safety fetish? Commented Sep 4, 2021 at 7:45

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