Are you confused about whether veal is considered red meat or white meat? You’re not alone.
The classification of meat can be a bit murky, with different factors coming into play depending on the context. While food scientists may point to myoglobin concentration and muscle fibers as the primary determinants of red meat, culinary and cultural contexts often have their own classifications.
In this article, we’ll explore the debate around what makes a meat ‘red’ or ‘white’, and take a closer look at veal – a meat that often falls into a gray area between the two categories.
So, let’s dig in and find out if veal is red meat or white meat!
Is Veal Red Meat Or White?
The answer to whether veal is red meat or white meat is not straightforward. In culinary terms, white meat is typically pale in color before and after cooking, and includes poultry, fish, rabbit, and the flesh of milk-fed young mammals such as veal and lamb. Red meat, on the other hand, includes four-legged land animals such as beef, pork, and lamb.
However, in some culinary contexts, veal is considered a white meat. This may be due to its pale color and delicate flavor compared to other red meats. Additionally, some types of poultry that are typically considered white meat, such as duck and goose, may be classified as red meat.
Food scientists point to higher myoglobin concentration and slow-twitch muscle fibers as the primary determinants of red meat. Myoglobin is a protein that gives meat its color and helps transport oxygen to muscles. Slow-twitch muscle fibers are used for sustained activity and require more oxygen, leading to higher myoglobin concentration.
Interestingly, the dark meat of chicken or turkey usually has more myoglobin than veal or pork, despite being classified as white meat in dietary studies.
What Makes Meat Red Or White?
Meat is classified as either red or white based on the amount of myoglobin found in the animal’s muscle. Myoglobin is a protein found in meat that produces a red color when it’s exposed to oxygen. Red meat has more myoglobin than white meat, and a higher myoglobin content generates a darker meat color. Red or dark meat is mainly made up of muscles with fibers called slow-twitch muscles, which contract slowly and release energy over longer periods of time for endurance activities. These muscles require more oxygen, leading to higher myoglobin concentration. In contrast, white meat is pale in color before and after cooking and is classified as non-dark meat from fish or chicken (excluding the leg or thigh). Poultry and fish, both of which are considered white meat, have significantly less myoglobin than red meat. Therefore, veal can be considered both red and white meat depending on the context in which it is being discussed. However, from a nutritional standpoint, veal is generally classified as red meat due to its higher myoglobin content compared to other white meats like chicken and fish.
The Culinary And Cultural Context Of Meat Classification
In culinary and cultural contexts, meat classification can be more complicated than just the color of the meat. For example, veal is often considered a white meat due to its delicate flavor and pale color, despite being derived from a young calf. Similarly, duck and goose, which are typically darker in color, may be classified as red meat in some culinary contexts.
The classification of meat can also vary depending on the cultural background. For instance, certain cultures may consider goat or lamb as white meat due to their leaner texture and lower myoglobin concentration. In contrast, other cultures may classify them as red meat due to their association with larger four-legged animals.
Moreover, the classification of meat can also be influenced by factors such as handling practices prior to slaughter, genetics, and dietary regimen. These factors can alter the muscle pH endpoint and result in pale, soft, exudative (PSE) or dark, firm, dry (DFD) muscle, which can affect the color and texture of the meat.
The Myoglobin Concentration And Muscle Fibers Debate
The debate over whether veal is red meat or white meat is closely tied to the myoglobin concentration and muscle fibers of the animal. Myoglobin is a protein that gives meat its color and helps transport oxygen to muscles. The more myoglobin content in meat, the darker red it will appear in color. Red meat typically has a higher myoglobin concentration due to the slow-twitch muscle fibers used for sustained activity, which require more oxygen.
On the other hand, white meat is made up of muscles with fast fibers used for quick bursts of activity, such as fleeing from danger. These muscles get energy from glycogen, which is also stored in the muscles. White meat usually has a lower myoglobin concentration because there is less usage in the muscle.
The myoglobin concentration and muscle fiber debate is complex and varies across different animal species. For example, pork, lamb, and beef have an average myoglobin concentration of 0.2%, 0.6%, and 0.8%, respectively. Chicken breast, in contrast, has an average myoglobin concentration of just 0.05%. This explains why beef tends to be rich and ruddy in hue, while chicken appears pale and translucent.
Veal is often considered a white meat due to its pale color and delicate flavor compared to other red meats. However, the myoglobin concentration of veal can vary depending on factors such as the age of the animal and the muscle type. Veal slaughtered after being milk-fed for up to one year old may have lower myoglobin concentration than beef or lamb.
Veal: A Gray Area Between Red And White Meat
Veal is classified as a red meat, but typical lean meat on a veal carcass has a grayish pink color. Typical calf carcasses have a grayish red color of lean meat. This gray area between red and white meat can be confusing for consumers who rely on color to determine the type of meat they are eating.
The USDA offers several explanations for the classification of meat beyond color. 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.
While veal may be considered a white meat in some culinary contexts, it still contains higher levels of saturated fat, cholesterol, and heme iron compared to poultry and fish. These nutrients have been linked to the development of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
It’s important for consumers to understand the nutritional content of the meat they consume and to balance their meat protein with whole grains, vegetables, and fruit for a healthy diet. Ultimately, the classification of veal as red or white meat may depend on cultural or culinary traditions, but its nutritional content remains a gray area between the two categories.
The Nutritional Value Of Veal
Veal is a highly nutritious meat that can be incorporated into a healthy meal plan. It is a rich source of protein and iron, and is lower in calories than beef. In fact, veal has 20% to 25% fewer calories than beef, making it a great choice for those looking to reduce their calorie intake.
Veal is also a good source of B-group vitamins, with the exception of vitamin B12 which is found in larger amounts in beef. It is richer in most B-group vitamins than beef, which makes it a healthier choice overall. Additionally, veal is lower in cholesterol and saturated fat than beef, which can make it a better option for heart health.
It is important to note that the nutritional value of veal depends on the cut of meat. The leanest cuts of veal include the sirloin, rib chop, loin chop, and top round. These cuts are lower in fat and calories, while still providing all the nutritional benefits of veal.
Cooking With Veal: Tips And Tricks
Veal is a lean meat with a mild, delicate flavor that can be cooked in a variety of ways. Here are some tips and tricks for cooking restaurant-style veal meat right at home:
1. Choose the right cut: Veal is available in different cuts, including chops, roasts, and shanks. When buying veal, let color be your guide: Veal should be light pink and the fat should be white. Meat that’s red in color indicates the animal is older, and the meat won’t be quite as mild in flavor or as tender. For a tender and juicy result, choose cuts that are not too thick, such as veal chops that are about 1 inch thick.
2. Marinate: To add flavor and tenderize the meat, marinate it for at least 30 minutes before cooking. A simple marinade of olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, and herbs like rosemary or thyme works well with veal.
3. Don’t overcook: Veal is best cooked to medium-rare or medium doneness to retain its tenderness and flavor. Overcooking can make it tough and dry. Use a meat thermometer to ensure the internal temperature reaches 145°F for medium-rare or 160°F for medium doneness.
4. Sear it: To get a nice crust on the outside of the meat, sear it in a hot pan with some oil before finishing it off in the oven or on the stovetop.
5. Pair it with complementary flavors: Veal pairs well with flavors like lemon, garlic, herbs, mushrooms, and cream-based sauces. Try making a classic veal piccata with a lemon-butter sauce or a creamy mushroom sauce to enhance its delicate flavor.