The Dangerous Holiday Food Tradition Wisconsin Residents Refuse To Give Up

It's a regional delicacy that comes with different names. The wildcat sandwich (via Quick Country). Tiger meat. Steak tartare. Cannibal Sandwiches (via Wisconsin Department of Health Services). But whatever families that come from the state of Wisconsin choose to call this holiday treat, the USDA and Wisconsin state health officials are hoping diners give the delicacy a hard pass this year. 

It all comes down to what the sandwiches are made with, and that's raw sirloin beef or stake that has been ground up and served on a cracker or rye bread, seasoned with salt, pepper, and raw onion before it is consumed. 

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services even gave the seasonal treat a social media shoutout, saying: "Time for our annual reminder that there's one #holiday tradition you need to pass on: raw meat sandwiches, sometimes called Tiger Meat or Cannibal Sandwiches. Many Wisconsin families consider them to be a holiday tradition, but eating them poses a threat for Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, Campylobacter and Listeria bacteria that can make you sick. (And, no, it doesn't matter where you buy your beef!) Remember, ground beef should ALWAYS be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 [degrees] F."

Social media users are up in arms over the recommendation

The cannibal sandwich isn't actually native to Wisconsin, Quick Country says it was actually put together by northern Europeans because the ingredients were easy to come by. Outside of Wisconsin, the cannibal sandwich has a less aggressive name and is known as steak tartare, served with onions, capers, peppers, and other seasonings. Steak tartare guarantees to raise the blood pressures of health officials further by being topped with a raw egg yolk (via Taste of Home).  

Judging from the responses to the Wisconsin Health Department's Facebook posts, social media users aren't about to listen to any health warnings anytime soon. One user said: "Been keeping my family tradition going for many years. Raw beef, onions, salt & pepper on mini-rye bread. Yum. Buy it special cut & ground fresh from a local small town butcher. No problems in over 60 years of eating it. Wisconsin tradition with a brandy old fashion!" Another said, "Nope. As much as I respect the Dept of Health, I've been eating them since I was 6. I'm not stopping now. (And this isn't 'party food.' This is 'I'm hungry for this and will eat it on any day that ends in Y'.)."

The USDA recommends cooking raw beef to 160F

One social media user pointed out that consuming year raw beef is a year-round practice and offered suggestions on how to do it safely: "In Germany we eat them all year through, we call them Mettbrötchen. The really important thing is that the meat is constantly chilled and freshly ground. Make sure the meat is organic. Eat within half an hour after purchasing or preparing the meat."

But the US Department of Agriculture refuses to give up without a fight to try and keep those who consume cannibal sandwiches safe. "If cannibal sandwiches are a tradition in your home, try this safe alternative: cook the ground beef with the same spices and toppings, until it reaches 160 [degrees] F, and serve it on top of bread or crackers. You may be surprised to find that it tastes better when cooked! Not to mention, you won't be risking a trip to the hospital with every mouthful" (via USA Today).

The Wisconsin Department of Health says eight outbreaks in the state have been tracked back to raw beef since 1986, and because it's 2020, it may be prudent to listen to the health warnings this year.