You might have heard many renditions of why red meat is red and white meat is white. Let’s put some rest to the confusion with some clarity regarding the subject, shall we?
(W)hat (T)he (F)ood decides the ‘colour’ of the meat?
A protein called Myoglobin, whose purpose is to help ship oxygen to muscle cells, usually decides the tinge of meat. Myoglobin is deeply pigmented, which is why the more myoglobin a meat contains, the darker (or redder) the meat appears.
Red meat is comprised of muscles that are used for extensive activity. Remember, myoglobin’s role is to help bring oxygen to the muscles, and oxygen is required to give muscles energy.
So the more the muscles usage, the more myoglobin they’ll contain (and the redder in colour they’ll be).
This is why when you prepare “white” meat such as poultry or fish, you won’t find any “blood” in the package – the white meat hardly contains any myoglobin.
To elucidate further the level of myoglobin in meat is what ultimately dictates whether it will be “red”, “dark”, or “white.” The muscles in red meat are used for standing, walking, and other frequent activity and they’re made up of slow-twitch muscle fibers. Red meats’ high levels of myoglobin make it red or dark in colour.
White meat, on the other hand, is made up of fast-twitch muscle fibers and is comprised of muscles used for quick bursts of activity only. They get energy from glycogen and contain little myoglobin.
Some animals, like chickens, contain both white and dark meat, with the dark meat found primarily in their leg muscles. If you’ve ever wondered why wild poultry (good old nati chicken) contain mostly dark meat, it’s because they fly frequently, and the increased muscle usage means the meat contains more myoglobin.
Fish, too, are typically considered white meat because most of them are able to float in the water without requiring much muscle use.
Certain types of migratory fish, those that swim briskly for extended periods, however, have dark meat, and that is again because of the increased myoglobin (examples would be tuna and shark).
Bonus Myoglobin Magic
The change in colour that occurs as meat cooks is also due to myoglobin. In white meat, that is translucent when raw, its proteins coagulate as it is cooked, resulting in the whitish opaque appearance.
In red meat, the myoglobin present changes from red to tan or grayish brown as it is heated. According to the New York Times, this color change also has to do with moisture, which is why well-done meat that’s turned gray-brown is often dry.
So there you have it, mystery solved. Now head over to the Licious website or tap the app to order the best red and white meat, now that the logic of red and white meat has been made clear.