What's the Difference Between White and Dark Meat?
November 01, 2007
Confused about what makes white meat “white” and dark meat “dark?" You’re not alone. Misleading data about the good and bad sides of white and dark meat abound. Finally, here is the real truth about the meat you eat.
Simply speaking, dark meats are dark because the muscles are used more (think drumsticks vs. breast meat). They have more myoglobin proteins, which help ship oxygen to your muscle cells.
When dark meat is cooked, the myoglobins turn into metmyoglobins, which are very high in iron.
White meat contains glycogen, which is a polysaccharide of glucose, an animal starch. Animal starch is stored in your liver, then broken down into glucose when it’s needed by the white muscle.
Dark meat contains more zinc, riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, vitamins B6 and B12, amino acids, and iron than white meat. Dark meats also contain more saturated fats, along with omega-3 and omega-6 fats.
USDA Gradings: What do They Mean?
Outside of white and dark meat, there’s also “red” meat, which is typically beef. When choosing red meat, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) grades them based on the marbling (the fat between the muscle tissue). Here is a breakdown of what the gradings mean:
- Kobe Beef: 20%-25% fat content
- USDA Prime: above 8% fat content
- USDA Choice: 4%-8% fat content
- USDA Select: 3%-4% fat content
- USDA Standard: below 3% fat content