Question: May one move raw meat or fish on Shabbat?
Answer: In the previous Halachot we have discussed the primary laws of the prohibition of Muktzeh on Shabbat which refers to certain objects that our Sages prohibited moving on Shabbat. Food items which are edible on Shabbat may be moved and are not considered Muktzeh.
The Primary Law Regarding Moving Raw Meat
The Gemara in Masechet Shabbat (128a) states that raw meat may be moved on Shabbat, for although meat is not usually eaten uncooked and we have previously established that foods that are inedible on Shabbat, such as dough and baking powder may not be moved on Shabbat since they are considered “innate Muktzeh” like rocks and dirt, nevertheless, since during the times of our Sages there were certain individuals who would in fact eat raw meat, it is not considered “innate Muktzeh” and it may be moved on Shabbat just like other food items.
Raw, Unsalted Meat is Permissible to Eat
Even if the meat has not yet been salted as prescribed by Halacha and it is full of blood which it has not yet released, nevertheless, it may still be moved on Shabbat, for the letter of the law dictates that one may eat raw meat before it has been salted since blood which is still absorbed inside the meat is not prohibited for consumption. Only through cooking, which causes the blood to exit the meat, will blood be prohibited for consumption; it is for this reason that meat must be salted before cooking it. However, if the meat is raw, as long as it has been washed thoroughly and there is no blood on the outer surface, it may be eaten as is, without any salting necessary.
Nowadays When it is Uncommon to Eat Raw Meat
However, Rabbeinu Yosef Haim writes in his Sefer Ben Ish Hai that nowadays, raw meat should not be moved on Shabbat since no one eats raw meat anymore and it thus retains the halachic status of rocks and dirt which may not be moved even for their own use or use of their space. Many great Acharonim, including as the Aruch Ha’Shulchan, Igrot Moshe, Hagaon Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l, and others, rule likewise.
Nevertheless, Hagaon Harav Yaakov di Buton in his Responsa Edut Be’Yaakov disputes this and writes that since our Sages have ruled that raw meat does not retain a Muktzeh status and it is impossible to say that there is nobody in the world who eats raw meat, it will in fact be permissible to move it on Shabbat, as was the Halacha in the times of the Talmud. Similarly, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l writes in his Sefer Halichot Olam that the letter of the law follows this more lenient view.
Maran zt”l adds that at least in instances where there can be a possible monetary loss, such as if the raw meat is outside the refrigerator and may spoil, one may indeed act leniently by picking it up and placing it in the refrigerator. This is especially true nowadays when there are people who eat raw meat after it has been soaked in salt and spices which is actually considered a delicacy in many upscale restaurants in Europe; thus, one may surely be lenient regarding this matter and move this meat to the refrigerator.
However, this applies only regarding meat that is edible when it is still raw, however, meat which is completely inedible, for instance, because it is ridden with bacteria and can only be eaten after it is cooked (which some say is the case with all frozen meat), it would seem that one should not act leniently and move this meat on Shabbat. We have been told by the owner of an upscale restaurant who prepares special dishes from raw meat that such dishes are commonly prepared using frozen meat as well; however, this does depend on the type and cut of meat.
Regarding raw fish which cannot be eaten raw, Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch (Chapter 308, Section 32) rules that raw fish may not be moved on Shabbat since it is inedible. Maran zt”l rules likewise that only salted fish which is edible may be moved on Shabbat; however, raw fish may not be moved. Nevertheless, in our times when it is common to eat salmon and other forms of raw fish in different forms of Asian cuisine (namely Sushi), it will be permissible to move such fish on Shabbat similar to the law regarding raw meat.
Summary: Meat which is somehow edible while it is still raw may be moved on Shabbat according to the letter of the law, especially when there is a pressing need to do so. However, raw fish which is completely inedible may not be moved on Shabbat.