There has been some form of misunderstanding when it comes to what constitutes white meat and red meat, their various health benefits and risk. The aim of this article is
to some extent address this issue.
Red meat is defined by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) as all
meats obtained from mammals, irrespective of cut or age, are red meats because they
contain more myoglobin than fish or white meat (but not necessarily dark meat) from
White meat on the other hand is in culinary terms, said to be meat which is pale in color before and after cooking.
Animal carcass can have both white and dark parts or cuts this is due to the “activity level” of the animal. That is, muscle that is involved in a lot of activities tend to appear to darker than the non-active muscle. A typical example can be seen in chicken which can have darker coloured thigh muscle as compared to the breast part. This phenomenon can also be observed in pigs. Also, some types of fish, such as tuna, are red when raw and turn white when cooked; similarly, certain types of poultry that are sometimes grouped as white meat are actually red when raw, such as duck and goose.
Generally, dark meat is obtained from the flesh of mammals e.g. Cattle, sheep, goat etc.
whilst white meat can be obtained from poultry, rabbit, fish,the flesh of milk-fed young
mammals (in particular veal and lamb), and pork.
One may ask, how is red meat good for me? Red meat is a rich source of protein, saturated fat, iron, zinc and B vitamins.
Iron is needed to help red blood cells transport oxygen. Iron deficiencies are more likely to occur in children, elderly people and pregnant women. Although it is available dark green leafy plants, beans and grains but is best absorbed by the body from red meat.
Zinc is required by the body for DNA synthesis and helps the immune system to function effectively. As well being found in red meat, zinc is also found in fish, grains, eggs and beans. However, zinc is best absorbed from meat and fish sources.
Amongst the B vitamins found abundantly in red meat are vitamin B6 and vitamin12.
Vitamin B6 is beneficial for the immune system and vitamin B12 beneficial for the nervous system.
Meat that fall in the category of white meat do not have the health concerns that red meat does, and so we often hear it suggested as a replacement.
They contain virtually everything that is contained in red meat but have considerably lower amounts of ‘bad’ fat with a relatively higher amounts of Omega 3 & 6 fatty acids.
Additionally, leaner cuts of white meat are among the highest dietary sources of protein.
Poultry also contains a range of essential micronutrients.
The health benefits of white meat include a decreased incidence of stroke 3 ; there is no association with obesity or insulin resistance 45 ; and also appears to have a neutral or favorable effect on blood coagulation profiles 6 .
Understanding the health impact of red meat on the other hand is difficult because it is not a uniform product, with effects varying based on fat content, processing and preparation. One analysis showed that processed red meat is linked to slightly higher mortality, mainly due to cardiovascular diseases and cancer.
There are also some worries that red meat may have negative impacts on our long-term health. In particular, these concerns relate to findings from nutritional epidemiology that suggest higher red meat intake increases mortality. Furthermore, red meat has been listed by the World Health Organization as a “likely carcinogen” that is, it is a potential cancer causing agent or contains potential cancer causing agents. Part of these concerns specifically relate to the high-heat cooking of red meat, and others are about the curing process.
A 2016 literature review reported that for 100g or more per day of red meat consumed, the risk increased 11% for each of stroke and for breast cancer, 15% for cardiovascular mortality, 17% for colorectal cancer, and 19% for advanced prostate cancer.
In short, although red meat is a rich source of protein, saturated fat, iron, zinc, B vitamins and other micronutrients, if it must be consumed, it must be done so in moderation. Also, white meat may be used as alternatives since generally it has relatively better health benefits. Care must also be taken to consume it in moderation.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_meat Retrieved October 7, 2019
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_meat Retrieved October 7, 2019
7 Sabine Rohrmann; Kim Overvad; European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition; et al. (7 March
2013). "Meat consumption and mortality – results from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and
Nutrition". BMC Medicine. 11 (1): 63. doi:10.1186/1741-7015-11-63. PMC 3599112. PMID 23497300. The results of our analysis support a moderate positive association between processed meat consumption and mortality, in
particular due to cardiovascular diseases, but also to cancer.”
8 Wolk, A (6 September 2016). "Potential health hazards of eating red meat". Journal of Internal Medicine. 281 (2):
106–122. doi:10.1111/joim.12543. PMID 27597529
1 "Mexican Flu: The Other White Meat : On Language". The Jewish Daily Forward. 6 May 2009. Retrieved 14 September 2009.
https://www.diabetes.co.uk/food/red-meat.html Retrieved October 7, 2019
4 Dabbagh-Moghadam, A; Mozaffari-Khosravi, H; Nasiri, M; Miri, A; Rahdar, M; Sadeghi, O (December 2017).
Images and charts retrieved from https://www.nutritionadvance.com/healthy-foods/red-
Sydney Nee Kwaatei Phixon-Owoo
Food nutritionist and scientist
The university of Ghana