Wisconsinites turning to comforting family traditions during the holiday season have been warned by their state health department to avoid one in particular: cannibal sandwiches.
The sandwiches – also known as “tiger meat” and, for the fancier-minded, “steak tartare” – consist of ground raw meat, typically beef, on a slice of bread, topped with raw onions.
In a tweet acknowledging the dish is a family tradition for some, the Wisconsin health department said: “Eating raw meat is NEVER recommended because of the bacteria it can contain. Ground beef should always be cooked to 160F!”.
In a longer Facebook post, the department wrote that eating raw meat risks illnesses from bacteria that thrive in raw meat, including salmonella, E Coli and Listeria.
“And, no, it doesn’t matter where you buy your beef!” it added.
In 2018, a blogpost from the US Department of Agriculture noted that “hundreds of people in the midwest are sickened after eating cannibal sandwiches” and noted eight outbreaks in the state in connection to raw beef consumption since 1986.
The post recommended a “safe alternative”: cook the beef with the same spices and toppings, instead of serving it raw.
The tradition likely comes from migrants from northern Europe who brought traditional dishes with them.
It is not clear exactly how popular the dish is, but Bunzel’s Meat Market in Milwaukee told Wisconsin Public Radio in 2019 it goes through more than 1,000lb of raw beef and 250lb of raw onions just for the sandwiches during the holiday period.
Jeff Zupan, owner of Bunzel’s Meat Market, told WPR it appears the sandwich is making a comeback.
“People are now like, ‘Oh gee, I remember when Grandma made this,” he said.