Although it may be undeniable that white meat is typically more healthful than red, what makes a meat ‘red’? You may be surprised that it’s not just color.
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Of course we are familiar with beef, pork and lamb as ‘red meat’, however in some culinary contexts, veal is considered white meat. Although poultry and fish are typically considered ‘white’, duck and goose are often considered ‘red’. Other flightless birds such as ostrich and emu are considered red meat. Salmon looks quite orange/dark to be considered a white meat, if you ask me.
So what clarifies an animal protein as red or white meat? The USDA offers several explanations:
~ Higher myoglobin concentration and slow twitch muscle fibers within the animal indicate ‘red’ classification
~ Depending on the pH of an animal’s flesh, they are considered ‘red’ or ‘white’
So if the classification of meat goes beyond color, consumers need to know more about what is actually in the food we eat, rather than simply- ‘does this look red or white?’
Nutrients in Red Meat
Although protein rich, foods classified as ‘red meat’ are typically higher in saturated fat, cholesterol and heme iron- all of which are linked to the development of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, respectively. The adverse consequences of consuming red meat should not entirely be attributed to diet, but lifestyle. According to the primary investigator of the ‘Nurses’ Health Study II and the ‘Health Professionals Follow-Up Study’, Dr. Walter Willet of Harvard School of Public Health analyzes that people who eat the most beef, pork and lamb live less healthful lives. They tend to eat fewer vegetables, exercise less and are more likely to smoke. These factors in conjunction with red meat are what contribute to red meat’s ‘bad rap’.
That being said, not all of the nutrients mentioned- saturated fat, cholesterol, iron and fat are consistent across the meat categories: red versus white. The following chart gives an explanation and color-coding for common ‘red’ and ‘white’ meat.
A better knowledge and moderation of various meats can fit into a healthy diet. Just be sure you are balancing your meat protein with whole grains, vegetables and fruit. sls
Source: Food and Nutrition Magazine: Jan/Feb 2013 (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics)