Chicken Sashimi Sounds Completely Gross, But is it Safe to Eat?

Matthew Loffhagen
Twitter/Food & Wine
(Photo: Twitter/Food & Wine)

There’s a weird new food trend bouncing around at the moment that’s gaining traction despite being utterly nauseating and potentially very dangerous.

Sashimi is a delight. Finely sliced raw salmon and other types of fish are an absolutely wonderful Japanese delicacy that have quite rightly earned a place of pride in the modern Western culinary lexicon.

What’s less appealing, at least from its initial concept, is the thought of raw chicken sashimi. Not only is chicken a very slimy raw meat at the best of times, chewy and slippery and fairly disgusting; but it’s also not safe to eat in many circumstances.

Poultry also comes with a long list of potential health risks, centered around the (let’s face it) fairly unethical battery farming methods that mean that many diseases are endemic to the world’s population of chicken raised for food.

Chief among these diseases in salmonella, which is spread between chickens through their poop, and which has an effect on the human gastro-intestinal system that’s similar to dropping a cherry bomb down a Taco Bell toilet.

In spite of this, raw chicken sashimi is growing in popularity. Maybe it’s the quirkiness of the dish, the inherent danger, or simply because people (gag!) actually enjoy eating the meat uncooked.

Whatever the reason, if someone offers you chicken sashimi (a growing danger as this dish gains popularity), you’re going to want to know whether it’s safe to eat.

A nice and thorough recent article from Food & Wine breaks down the growing popularity of this dish, and what customers should do in order to assure their safety.

Firstly, it’s worth noting that most chicken sashimi is not served completely raw (thank goodness!) but is boiled or seared very, very quickly, for around ten seconds, in an effort to kill off disease.

Sadly, the University of Georgia’s Center for Food Safety argues that this is not long enough to actually make this disgusting dish risk-free. This being the case, the big question about the sashimi’s safety comes down to how the chicken was reared.

Not all chicken meat contains salmonella and other diseases. This is a product of unsavory battery farming, where these poor birds are stuck in tiny cages that are stacked on top of each other, pooping on one another constantly – hence the spread of illness that remains in their meat once they’re killed.

Hand reared, free-range and organic chickens are less likely to have contracted this disease. Ethically farmed chicken is a safer bet when trying sashimi, as well as coming without a sense of guilt at eating a creature that has suffered throughout its entire life.

If a restaurant serves raw chicken sashimi, and you’re crazy enough to want to try it, be sure to ask your server about where the restaurant sources their meat, and what conditions have been met to keep the chicken safe to consume. Any self-respecting restaurant that’s trying to offer this obscure menu item should hopefully be able to tell you why their meat is safe.

One more thing: if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, do not eat raw meat of any kind, let alone raw chicken. It’s just not worth it – your risk of illness is greater, and the potential damage doesn’t bear thinking about.

Otherwise, go forth and eat raw chicken! It you really, really want to, that is…