US mother who feeds six-month-old daughter rare steak divides internet

Screenshots of viral TikTok video showing six-month-old baby chewing on pink steak
A viral clip of a baby eating medium-rare steak has attracted backlash, with many parents calling out the mum for putting her child's health at risk. Photo credit: @mrskatieharley / TikTok

A mother who chooses to feed her six-month-old daughter medium-rare steak has divided the internet, with critics claiming the meat poses a hazard to the child's health.

Katie Harley, a 23-year-old mum-of-one from the US state of South Carolina, has gone viral on TikTok after a video of her infant daughter eating undercooked steak attracted backlash from viewers. 

In a short clip shared earlier this month, Harley captured baby Eliza chewing on a piece of the medium-rare meat, with red juices oozing onto her high chair and sweater. 

"Eliza tries steak," the mum captioned the clip. "She was a big fan."

Critics were quick to point out the flaws in Harley's parenting, warning that the chewy meat could pose a choking hazard. Others criticised Harley for giving Eliza such rare steak, noting that the undercooked meat could harbour potential bacteria.

"That steak is too undercooked for an infant that age. It needs to be well done," one declared.

"Baby cannot digest meat that's undercooked," claimed another.

"New moms out there... experiencing new food is wonderful, just be careful with steak - it is chewy and it can become a choking hazard," a third warned.

Responding to the backlash, Harley repeatedly argued that the steak hadn't been undercooked - which prompted more outraged comments.

"Not undercooked, but red juices are coming out," one pointed out.

"Hi, chef here. That meat is undercooked, only the outer is slightly cooked, it's a rare steak. 'Cooked' is when there is no blood in the meat," another stated.

In response, Harley argued that she had researched whether rare meat was safe for an infant and claimed she had discussed the dietary choice with a paediatrician. 

"She can have rare steak. If I'm comfortable eating it, I'm comfortable giving it to her," she clapped back.

"Steak is very high in iron which is something tons of babies are deficient in. It's very good for them!"

In a second version of the clip posted last week, Harley hit back at those who had pillorised her parenting, captioning the video: "People loooove giving parenting advice to people who didn't ask."

"When I give my baby steak for TikTok... thanks for the views," she added. The short clip has amassed more than 205,000 viewers since it was shared three days ago.

While the clip encouraged further backlash, the comments were generally more positive than the first iteration, with many rushing to Harley's defence. Others agreed with the dietary decision and claimed that meat was a great choice for young children.

"Too red for me, I won't even eat it like that," one commented. "Steak is so easy to choke on, my grown niece choked on it not long ago, so scary."

"I have choked on steak twice and I'm [an] adult," warned another. "It is dangerous - not being a Karen but when I give my toddlers steak, [I cut it in] tiny, tiny pieces."

"I just asked Google and it said no rare or medium rare meat for babies or young toddlers. Their stomachs can't handle the potential bacteria," one claimed.

"The cow is still mooing and eating grass though," another joked.

"Everyone in the comments section acting like they came over to your house with a meat thermometer," one viewer hit back.

"Ever think the baby was anaemic? I was told by our paediatrician to give my son steak to up his iron," one mum shared, while another added: "My kids loved steak for teething, bonus was the taste."

"It's good for them and encourages jaw development and strength," another claimed.

"Cute and totally your right as a parent, but the juices getting on the fabric is stressing me out," a fourth said.

In a statement to Mail Online, Harley said she never anticipated the clip would become so controversial.

"I never in a million years would think that a video of my daughter eating would be so controversial," the mum told the outlet. "But I'm thankful we're opening up a conversation about how we feed our children and the science behind it."

Health Navigator New Zealand recommends introducing solid foods at around six months of age, including meats. However, the service recommends starting with cooked - not medium-rare - beef, lamb, fresh fish, chicken or pork that has been pureed, rather than in whole pieces. Minced or finely chopped tender cooked meat is recommended between eight and 12 months.

Plunket also recommends introducing "stage one solids" at around six months, which may include "cooked and pureed meat like beef, lamb, pork, chicken or fish".

"Your baby now needs extra iron to grow well. Lamb's liver is a good source of iron, but it's best only to offer liver once a week," it says.

From eight to nine months, Plunket suggests adding small pieces of soft meat or shellfish.