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Pork Smells Like Fish? Why is That and is it Safe to Eat?

You’re pretty sure you bought pork from the store but when you took the package of meat out from the fridge, you were greeted with an odd, fishy odor. Your pork smells like fish! Why is that and is it safe to eat?

Pork Smells Like Fish

If pork is stored with fish it can take on the fish smell. Pork that smells like fish should not be consumed as it likely means that the meat has gone bad. In some cases, the pork may have absorbed odors from other things that have been stored with it, such as fish. However, this just means that it was improperly stored or has been in storage for a long time, in which case, it is best discarded.

Pork Smells Like Fish - Safe to Eat?
Pork Smells Like Fish – Safe to Eat?

What Does Raw Pork Smell Like?

Fresh meat should smell just like that, meat. Pork in particular should not harbor any strong odors. As meat has the tendency to absorb odors from packaging or nearby food, it is imperative that it be handled and packaged properly so it does not absorb any odors or smells.

Pork Smells Like Fish? Why and Safe to Eat?

Pork that smells like fish is not a good sign. It is usually one of the more telling signs of spoilage. Meat develops off odors, textures, and colors when it is past its prime.

Pork smelling like fish is one tell-tale sign that it is not fresh anymore. For safety reasons, it is best discarded.

Even if by some twist of fate, your pork isn’t spoiled, pork that smells like fish isn’t very appetizing. Eating is not just limited to the sense of taste.

Our sense of sight and smell play a huge role in whether our eating experience will be pleasant or not.

Pork should smell like pork, and if it smells like fish, it won’t be very appealing even if you do not get sick from it.

Raw pork should not have any strong smell. If it smells fishy, it has likely gone bad.
Raw pork should not have any strong smell. If it smells fishy, it has likely gone bad.

Reasons Why Pork Can Smell like Fish

We can think of three reasons why your pork might end up smelling like fish.

1. Your Pork Smells Like Fish Because It Has Gone Bad

When meat has gone bad, it will not be a secret. The pork will definitely let you know through a combination of visible signs, smells, and textures that will be hard to ignore. Pork that has discoloration, mold, a slimy texture, and unusual, strong smells are signs that it has deteriorated and should not be consumed.

Fresh pork should smell like raw meat, and should not have any other strong smell. If it smells of fish, rotten eggs or ammonia, or any other unidentifiable odor, it is best discarded as it may have already gone off.

The fishy smell is caused by a chemical called trimethylamine or TMA, which is a broken-down component of the compound Trimethylamine Oxide (TMAO). 

While fish are alive, they need TMAO to regulate the balance of fluids in their body and counteract the effects of salt water.  When they die, bacteria and enzymes convert this TMAO into TMA, which is what gives off that characteristic “fishy” smell. 

While more commonly associated with fish, TMA can also be produced in other animals through complex processes and interactions between bacteria and certain compounds.

High concentrations of TMA are usually linked to faster spoilage and degradation.  

Commonly associated with fish, the “fishy smell” is caused by a chemical called trimethylamine Or TMA.
Commonly associated with fish, the “fishy smell” is caused by a chemical called trimethylamine Or TMA.

2. Your Pork Smells Like Fish Because It Was Improperly Stored and Handled

Sometimes meat will absorb odors from packaging or containers, or from food that has been stored next to it or been in contact with it, especially if it is something with a very strong, discernible odor like seafood. 

If your pork smells like fish, this may also be the reason why. The smell might come off by rinsing the pork, however, according to the CDC and FDA, you should not rinse meat prior to cooking as it may cause bacteria and pathogens to spread and may promote cross-contamination. 

If your pork is spoiled, you may be unnecessarily spreading the harmful bacteria by rinsing it. 

To avoid this, it is best to store pork properly, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap or in an airtight container away from other strong-smelling foods. 

It is also best to source pork from a reputable source that adheres to proper food safety standards.

3. Your Pork Smells Like Fish Because Of What It Was Fed

I guess the saying “you are what you eat” applies here. The specific flavors and characteristics of meat are affected by the kind of food they were fed and how they were cared for and raised.

This is why some would take the extra care of just feeding their pigs apples or nuts, or whatever flavor profile they wish for the meat to have.

If the pigs were fed fish or fish meal, they may take on this flavor profile and aroma, and cause your pork to smell like fish. 

There are several reasons why your pork might end up smelling like fish and it is important to exercise caution in this regard in order to avoid contracting a food-borne illness.

What Happens If I Eat Pork that Smells Like Fish?

Eating pork that smells like fish, even if it isn’t spoiled, will probably not be a very appetizing dish for most people. It is likely that you will not enjoy it.  But worse, if it’s because your meat is spoiled, you may end up contracting a food-borne illness.

Food poisoning can occur if you ingest spoiled meat. 

Symptoms include:

  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Gastrointestinal upset
  • Fever
  • Muscle cramps

While most symptoms resolve themselves after a few days, some cases can turn serious quickly and require hospitalization. Some types of food poisoning can also lead to long-term effects, depending on how dangerous the ingested bacteria are.   

It really isn’t worth the health risks for something you probably will not enjoy anyway.

Eating spoiled pork can lead to a serious case of food poisoning.
Eating spoiled pork can lead to a serious case of food poisoning.

How to Avoid Pork That Smells Like Fish

To prevent food-borne illnesses and to ensure that your pork-eating experience will be enjoyable, remember the following tips.

1. Source From Reputable Farmers, Butchers and Stores

There are a lot of risks associated with mishandled meat that’s why it is important to always get your meat from reputable sources or from places that understand how to handle and store them properly and not leave meat vulnerable to cross-contamination.

This not only ensures that you are getting the best type and quality of meat but guarantees your safety as well. 

Source your meat from reputable sources to ensure that they adhere to minimum food safety standards.
Source your meat from reputable sources to ensure that they adhere to minimum food safety standards.

2. Adhere To Food Safety Guidelines In Proper Storage of Food

Even if you get your pork from a reputable butcher and you get the best quality there is, there is still some action required on your part once you purchase that package of pork.

Make sure to practice safe meat handling procedures and to store them properly. Raw meat should be properly wrapped and sealed, stored at the proper temperatures, and kept away from other food, especially those that will not be cooked prior to eating them. 

3. Consume Pork Within A Reasonable Time Frame

Raw pork, according to Food Safety standards, may safely be stored in the fridge for 3-5 days, and in the freezer for 4-12 months. It is important to always remember these timelines when you buy your pork for cooking. 

Pork is not that difficult to find and in my opinion, it is just best to get it as close to the time of cooking as possible so you do not have to worry about properly storing it for a long time.

Using fresh meat in your cooking makes a huge difference in the quality and taste of the food, and if you can afford to get fresh meat every time, it will surely be worth it.

Conclusion to Pork Smells Like Fish

Pork should not smell of anything but pork. If it has a fishy smell, it is often a very good sign that it has gone bad.

If the smell is due to absorption of flavors and odors from packaging or other food, it is not a very good sign too as it means it was not handled properly and may not be sanitary.

If your pork was fed fish, that may also explain the smell, however, this is not a very common occurrence nowadays.

Of the three stated reasons, it is more likely that your pork smells like fish because it has started to go bad. In this case, it is best to discard it and not risk acquiring a food-borne illness.

Frequently Asked Questions About Pork Smells Like Fish

Pork Smells Bad But Is Not Expired. Should I Toss It?

Even if your pork is not expired according to the best-by label, it may still have gone bad due to improper handling or storage. Pork should not have a very strong odor to begin with and should smell like meat. Any other strong smells, especially if they are bad, are signs that your pork has gone bad and is best discarded.

Is it Normal for Pork to Smell Like Fish?

It is not normal for pork to smell like fish, or any other odor aside from meat. A fishy smell is usually an indication that it has gone bad.

Can I Still Cook Pork That Smells Like Fish?

Pork that smells like fish has likely gone bad, and cooking does not get rid of any toxins that are present in spoiled meat. If your pork smells of fish, rotten eggs or ammonia, it means it is bad and should be discarded.

Author Bio

Daniel Iseli (Head Chef)

Hi, my name is Daniel and I am passionate about cooking. I have been cooking for the past 20 years and am happy to share my best recipes and cooking-related knowledge with you.