White vs. Dark Meat – is it okay to say All Meats Matter?
What is the difference between white meat and dark meat?
Meat is largely comprised of protein and when it comes to protein, there are different kinds. The protein at hand, is myoglobin, a protein that carries oxygen to the different muscles and is highly pigmented (dark). Muscles that need more oxygen will need more myoglobin (to carry the oxygen). This also means that that muscle is more active for that animal. Therefore, more active muscles have more myoglobin and is darker in color.
A chicken is the best example to differentiate myoglobin content. Chicken breasts and wings are known as white or light meat. In the daily life of a chicken, the breast and wings are not very active. I don’t stare at chicken chests often, but I’d say they look pretty and plump. Comparatively, the legs and thighs of the chicken are very active. These two legged fowl creatures spend most of their time walking around. These leg muscles are more active, requiring more oxygen, requiring more myoglobin to transport the oxygen and these cuts are then known as dark meats.
Why is pork called the “other” white meat?
Its all in the marketing. In 1987, the National Pork Board sponsored the advertisement for pork to be known as “The Other White Meat.” This change in marketing sold pork as an alternative to the squawkers – chicken and turkey. What is told in advertisements and grocery story signs for pork may refer to it as white meat, but nutritionists may point the myoglobin content closer to dark meat . Regardless, pork sales went up and does it really have to be classified as white or dark meat?
Is white meat or dark meat more healthy?
Perhaps “healthy” should be defined first. In today’s world, where excess fat seems to be the popular enemy; white meat could be defined as healthier. White meat contains less fat than dark meat. (And in my opinionated view, the lower fat content explains why white meat is more prone to dry out and taste dry. I digress.)
Where dark meat has more fat content, it also carries more nutrients like Vitamin B, Vitamin C (ha! Its not just in oranges), zinc, niacin and iron. Nutrients are important to health as well and required for daily function.
So in the conversation of health, perhaps one should enjoy both white and dark meat for the best of both worlds – white and dark meat.
Why does meat change color when cooked?
As meat is heated over 140 degrees Fahrenheit or 60 degrees Celsius, myoglobin is challenged to transport or bind to oxygen. As the temperature increases, the iron in myoglobin becomes displaced and forms hemichrome (turns meat that tan color). Thus, with higher temperatures, meat turns from red to tan-brown.
If salmon and trout is pink in color,does that mean its dark meat?
Typically, fish is considered white meat Even though swimming would be quite the effort, the small amount of red meat in the fins and tail is not enough to generalize fish as dark meat.
Salmon and trout consume crustaceans and insects which have a high content of the pigment, astaxanthin. Pigment or coloring is not protein, thus salmon and trout is colored, but not dark meat.
White vs. dark meat preferences
Canadians and Americans overwhelmingly prefer white meat as tabulated by the various chicken councils. The perception of healthier choice with white meat lower in fat content drives this North American preference.
Elsewhere, in the world, Asian, South Americans and Mexicans strongly prefer dark meat.
So next time you pull up to KFC or Popeyes, you’ll notice that pieces of white meat is limited in your bucket order in North America, but you can usually get a whole bucket of dark meat without issue.
What’s your preference? White or Dark Meat?
For anyone still paying attention, I’m a dark meat girl all the way. Call me when you’re cooking thighs, steak, brisket! I will happily share the dark meat of your chicken bucket.