Even if you are not a great fan of red meat, you have probably noticed the red juice that is usually present in packaged red meat products Most people think that this is blood that comes from the meat, but that’s not right. The fact is that almost all blood is extracted when the meat is processed and if there is some of it left it can usually be found in the muscle tissue.
This red juice that we see is actually a solution that consists of water and myoglobin, a protein that has a role to transport oxygen to the cells of the muscles. This protein is highly pigmented which means that meat that comes with very intense red or dark color contains more myoglobin and vice versa.
In most cases, red meat is made up of muscles that were used by animals intensively.
Keep in mind that the basic role of myoglobin is to provide sufficient amount of oxygen to the cells in this area and oxygen is crucial for energizing muscles.
In other words, if the muscles are very active, they will have higher amounts of myoglobin and they will have more vivid red color.
That’s why when you buy white meat like fish or poultry; you won’t notice red liquid in the package. The truth is that this meat have very low amount of myoglobin.
MYOGLOBIN GIVES THE MEAT RED, DARK OR WHITE COLOR
The amount of myoglobin in meat is in direct relation of the color of meat. The muscles that are part of red meat play major role in processes like walking, standing and other similar activities and they contain muscle fibers used for various movements and activities that animals perform on a daily level. The high amount of myoglobin in red meat makes the meat red.
As already mentioned, white meat consists of so-called fast-twitch muscle fibers and muscles that are used only in situations when we need to make sudden movement and get engaged in sudden activity. These muscles rely on glycogen when it comes to energy and come with small amounts of myoglobin.
There are certain animal species, like chicken for instance, that have dark and white meat. The dark meat is usually found in their legs. This explains why wild poultry has more dark meat – they are more active, so their muscles have higher level of myoglobin.
As you are probably aware, pigs come with a specific kind of white meat. The reason is simple – they have significant levels of myoglobin in muscles, but they are not found only in specific areas like in cattle. In addition, fish are usually listed in white meat animals because they don’t need much energy to move in the water and they don’t use muscles frequently.
But, it is good to mention that some types of fish that migrate from one place to another and spend days or even months on this activity, contain dark meat. Some good examples of fish like this are sharks and tuna.
MYOGLOBIN CAN HELP YOU DETERMINE WHETHER THE MEAT IS COOKED TOO MUCH
The color alteration that appears when we cook meat is closely related to this protein. For instance, when it comes to white meat, this meat is translucent before we cook it and when the meat is cooked, myoglobin coagulates and we get that whitish dense color.
On the other hand, myoglobin in red meat turns from red to grayish brown when it is cooked. According to the New York Times, this color alteration is also affected by moisture The well-prepared red meat is usually dry.
When the myoglobin gets enough oxygen it is red. However, when we apply heat, the structure of this protein is altered and starts changing its color. The redness in cooked red meat suggests the level of juiciness.
Myoglobin remains unaltered and red when the juices of the meat are still circulating, but after a while it becomes brown or grayish because the moisture is gone and the cooked meat is dry.
EXPOSURE TO CARBON MONOXIDE MAKES THE MEAT LOOK MUCH FRESHER THAN IT IS
If myoglobin gets in touch with air, it gradually becomes brown. That’s why the color of your meat can be used as an efficient sign of freshness. So, red meat is much fresher than uncooked meat that looks brownish.
Yet, in the United States, the Food and Drug Administration allows companies use CO (carbon monoxide) as preservatives. CO interacts with the iron atom from myoglobin molecule and makes the meat light red and blocks the interaction with oxygen.
It is good to point out that this is something that is not allowed in Japan and Europe because despite the fact that Co can prevent color alteration, it doesn’t keep the meat safe from bacteria. In other words, while the meat appears perfectly fine, it may be polluted with bacteria.
IS WHITE MEAT HEALTHIER THAN DARK MEAT?
The fact is that dark meat contains more fat compared to white meat and that’s what makes this meat juicier. When it comes to poultry, dark meat contains higher amount of nutrients compared to white meat.
It is good to know that red meat is often avoided because of the higher amount of saturated fat in it, but the truth is that this claim is incorrect. We have all heard that consumption of red meat increases chances of developing heart disease due to the high cholesterol levels. However, many scientific studies have confirmed that this cholesterol and risk of heart disease are not connected.
For instance, according to a study conducted 6 years ago on Harvard, there is no proof that consumption of any type of red meat results in heart disease. If you want to take a good care of your health, you should try to learn more about the way the animal was fed. Always opt for animals that were grown in a natural way.
SELECT PASTURED (GRASS-FED) INSTEAD OF GRAIN-FED MEAT
People who have experience in this field often say that there is a huge different between the meat of animals raised in confined spaces and those who were raised in a traditional way. As a matter of fact, this difference is so huge that the meat of same animals raised in different environment and in a different way look like meat from completely different animals.
Without any doubts, modern agriculture and farming has many negative sides and the decision to force cattle to inactivity and consumption of grain is one of the worst. Confined cows are artificially grown fatter in a very quick manner thanks to grains, but also with the help of some drugs that support fast growth.
Don’t forget that more than 80% of all antibiotics used in the United States are given to animals. The use of antibiotics ruins the gut and bacterial balance in animals Cattle and other ruminant animals naturally eat plain grass.
If they are left to choose between grains and grass they will always choose grass. So, the bad diet leads to the occurrence of many different diseases. This drastically changed nutrition has a direct impact on the structure of the meat.
For instance, animals that follow natural diet have up to five time higher levels of CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) than confined animals. The aforementioned acid brings many health benefits to animals like promoting insulin resistance, combating cancer and boosting body composition.
Grass-fed meat is leaner and has very high levels of important minerals and vitamins like magnesium, calcium and potassium. In addition, it is packed with adequate amounts of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
So, unless you see a label that says grass-fed, this means that every packaged meat you purchase comes from so-called CAFO animals. According to some studies, about 50% of the meat found in grocery stores in America contains pathogenic bacteria and strains resistant to antibiotics. On the other hand, pastured meat is not linked to this unusually high occurrence of contamination.
Obviously, this is true not only for beef, but also for poultry which should always be pasture-raised and organic and fish too (choose wild caught fish).
WHERE CAN WE GET NATURALLY RAISED MEAT?
At the present moment, meat in regular stores comes with a label that says one hundred percent grass-fed if it is completely natural, but if there is no label, then this meat is most likely CAFO raised. This is the reason why many anti-GMO organizations, animal protection groups and associations of natural and organic food consumers are trying to force manufacturers to put labels on every meat they sell indicating the origin of meat.
The campaign that actually has one goal – to get labels for CAFO meat, comes with a huge program that aims to help buyers learn more about the negative effects of such farming and they believe that it won’t take much time before all the poultry, beef, dairy products and pork that originate from factory farming will have label on them.
Meanwhile, each of us can avoid and boycott these products and buy products from local farmers who continue to follow the practice of producing pastured eggs, meat and dairy products by following methods that can hurt animals, humans and nature. It is the best idea to visit and buy products directly from farms or farmer’s markets. While you are there talk to the seller about the conditions in which they raise their animals In addition, try to share this information with as many friends as you can because in this way you will protect their health too.