Are defects and lumps in meat safe to eat?

Although they're unsightly, lumps and other defects in meat are usually harmless. Find out what causes them.

Causes of lumps and defects in meat

Lumps and other changes in meat texture are generally safe to eat. They can be a natural part of the animal, like lymph nodes. They may also be caused by:

  • injections
  • foreign objects (like grass seeds)
  • localised bacterial infections
  • parasites that lodge in muscles.

An animal's body will naturally surround a foreign object to form an abscess. Later the lumps may include hard materials such as calcium. While it is wise to remove a lump if you find one, it is not likely to cause harm.

Harmless lumps in sheep meat

Lumps in sheep meat are commonly caused by a parasite known as sheep measles (Taenia ovis). The parasite burrows into muscle and goes into a resting stage or cyst. Over time these cysts will appear as small hard, white lumps. Although unsightly and unpleasant to find in sheep meat, the cysts are harmless to people.

Lymph nodes are safe to eat

Lymph nodes are grey or light-brown, marble-sized lumps of tissue. They can be found in the fatty areas between muscles, or beside them. Lymph nodes are a natural part of the animal and are not a defect.

Lumps and defects are rare

It's not common to find lumps or defects in meat. By law, trained inspectors must check all carcasses before any meat products are sold. They ensure lumps and defects are removed when detected.

Who to contact

If you have questions about defects and lumps in meat, email info@mpi.govt.nz

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