A Moment of Science

Why Fish Smell More than Meat

Ever wonder why rotten fish smell worse than beef? Find out on today's Moment of Science.

Ever wonder why rotten fish smell so much worse so much sooner than a hunk of beef? Why Fish Smell More than Meat, on today’s Moment of Science.

Have you ever wondered why fish stink so much more than meat?

Well, it’s because fish tissue contain an odorless chemical known as trimethylamine oxide. Once the fish is killed and the fish’s tissues are exposed to air, the bacteria in the fish’s body break down this chemical into two new chemicals that are derivatives of ammonia, and therefore smell pretty bad.

The main reason why fish smells so much worse is the fact that regular meat doesn’t contain high amounts of trimethylamine oxide, and fish do. This chemical is especially common in the flesh of cold-water surface-dwelling fish like cod. So cod would start smelling faster than, say, catfish.

Also, keep in mind that the extent to which you hate the smell of fish is in part culturally determined. People who don’t eat fish find its smell a lot more offensive than people who eat a lot of it. Plus, because we associate rotting fish with food poisoning, we’re conditioned to find its smell disgusting rather than appetizing.

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