Dark Meat
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Dark Meat comes from areas of the animal packed with heavily-used, slow twitch, endurance-type muscles. Dark meat is darker (and more flavorful) than white meat because, the muscles contained in dark meat do more work in the animal. Dark meat is dark because it is made up of slow twitch, endurance-type muscles. They contain the protein "myoglobin", which assists in transporting oxygen to the hard working muscles. Myoglobin is responsible for the raw meat’s dark reddish color.

In contrast, white meat is made up of fast twitch, reactive muscles which work hard, but in bursts and for a limited time. Fast twitch muscles do not have the same needs for extended oxygen consumption and therefore have very little myoglobin. The lack of myoglobin makes White Meat appear pale pink when raw. Both Dark Meat and White Meat change color when cooked. Dark Meat changes from reddish to brown and White Meat changes from pinkish to white.

Dark meat takes time to develop and is more pronounced in older, mature animals that have had time to build up their endurance. Younger animals, on the other hand, have very little dark meat because they have not been involved in significant endurance-type activities such as flying, or even grazing a multi-hundred-pound or multi-thousand-pound body across the prairie. Because of the hard steady work, dark meat is also typically tougher than white meat

Dark Meat is found in Beef, Poultry, PorkLambRabbitFish (some see below), and Game such as Venison or Elk, etc. Dark Meat is not widely found in most commercial Seafood. Because buoyancy does most of the heavy lifting in fish, dark meat, endurance-type muscles are only found where hard work is done, such as in a fish’s tail. These tougher, hard working areas are not considered “good eating” and are typically discarded.


Dark Meat in Beef

Because of the Myoglobin, when raw, Dark Meat is known as “Red Meat,” no matter the source. In conventional usage Beef has come to be called “Red Meat,” though it is technically Dark Meat. There are not very many fast twitch fibers in cattle; they are predominantly slow twitch. All the meat we find on a Steer is Dark Meat. Veal, which is from a calf, is also Dark Meat, but it has not had a chance to build myoglobin and toughen and mature.

Dark Meat in Pork

Pork is known as “The Other White Meat,” but is actually all Dark Meat because there is Myoglobin present in the muscles, though in reduced concentrations as compared to Beef. Pork looks like White Meat because even when mature, Pork has lower concentrations of Myoglobin, and also because most Pork is harvested young before its Dark Meat has had much chance to develop. Another reason is lack of exercise.  Few Hogs are raised Free Range under modern production methods, and often their muscles atrophy and don’t fully develop Dark Meat.

Dark Meat in Poultry

Poultry can have both White Meat and Dark Meat depending on the amount of endurance work done by the animal.  The amount of endurance-type work performed or avoided drives the formation of Dark Meat or White Meat. Breast meat is a good example. In birds that do a lot of flying powered by large pectoral muscles, such as Ducks and Geese, the breast meat is Dark Meat. In birds that are largely flightless, such as Chickens and Turkeys, the breast meat is White Meat.

Ducks and Geese are all Dark Meat. Both their wings (flying) and legs (swimming) do a lot of endurance work. Chickens and Turkeys have a mixture of White Meat and Dark Meat. In Chicken, Dark Chicken Meat is found in Chicken LegsChicken BacksChicken Necks, (the areas that do slow and steady work) and in parts of the Chicken Wings. The same is true of Turkey. Dark Turkey Meat is found in the Turkey LegsTurkey BackTurkey Neck and parts of the Turkey Wing.