It is often said, especially in the dietary world, that white meat (poultry and fish) are “better for you” than red meat. What do you think? True or false?
What is the difference between red and white meat, exactly? Actually, there are several.
Myoglobin is a protein that, by binding iron and oxygen, helps the muscles utilize oxygen more efficiently. The purpose of the muscle during an animals life is the deciding factor in whether it will be “red” or white”. Red meat comes from muscle which is used for regular, steady activity such as walking (a.k.a. slow twitch muscle). White meat, on the other hand, is the muscles used in short, sharp bursts of speed (a.k.a. fast twitch muscle). See, the more frequently and longer the period of time a muscle is used, the higher the presence of myoglobin. The red pigments formed by the myoglobin is the reason the meat gets its color. Make sense?
So, what about chickens and turkeys? They are white meat sources, right? Well, yes they are…but they also have “red meat”. The breast, (the most classic and loved type of white meat) is used by chickens and turkeys in short, sharp (albeit ineffective) bursts of speed for “flight”, is a fast twitch muscle. Now, on the other hand, ducks and geese spend an extended period of time swimming or flying and are made of almost entirely dark meat. Don’t believe it? Just compare the color of a raw chicken breast to that of a raw duck breast to see the difference. So yes, poultry and fowl definitely give us white meat, but they also provide red meat, we just call it dark meat.
There are some more differences between red and white meat as well. Red meat has a stronger flavor than white meat. As such, it does not lend itself to quite as much versatility in recipes as white meat does. While it is true that red meat does have a higher fat content than white meat, trimming the visible fat often brings that down immensely. In fact, trimming the excess fat makes the fat content only slightly higher than that found in white meat (unless there is considerable marbling), making the difference in calories minimal. In addition, red meat also has high levels of zinc, riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, vitamins B6 and B12 and, of course, iron.
The bottom line? Both are protein. Both can be healthy choices. Is one truly “better” than the other? Well, you tell me. I’ve given you the information, what do you think?