We recently spoke about red meat and explored the myths and rumours about your favourite cuts of meat. This fortnight we’re talking about white meat, its benefits, where it comes from and how our bodies interact with it.
White meat is a well-known meat because of chicken and turkey, both poultry meats with overall low(er than red meat) fat counts. It also includes many fish species, and rabbit and duck, despite its darker, raw colour. You might have heard pork counted as a white meat, and this is because of its lower fat content, but this classification is not actually true.
What is a white meat?
In 1987, the National Pork Board released an international campaign called “Pork: The Other White Meat” (1) which advertised pork as a white meat, to alienate the idea of pork as an ‘unhealthy’ fatty meat (such as red meat) and encourage consumers to replace what was at the time ‘unhealthy’ meats with ‘healthier’ alternatives like pork. We now know that red meat is as safe as any other kind of meat, and that pork— while it could be considered a white meat culinarily because of its lower fat content, opaque pale colour and flavour— is considered by the agricultural departments and scientific classification to be a red meat due to its level of myoglobin and its category as livestock. So, what actually makes a white meat, or red meat?
Red meat is named after its intense red colour, which is caused by of myoglobin, a naturally occurring muscle pigment. In red meats like beef and lamb, there are higher levels of myoglobin. In white meats like poultry, the lower levels of myoglobin makes the meat whitish in colour (2).
Myoglobin is a store for iron produced in the blood, which is why it is a red colour; you can identify the amount of iron, as well as the age of the animal, based on the depth of colour (3). Red meats do have higher levels of iron, but white meat also has many benefits for our gut, heart and brain health.
The Benefits of White Meat
White meat is reportedly good for managing cholesterol due to its high levels of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids like omega-3 and omega-6, generally found in fish (4). These fatty acids balance LDL cholesterol with HDL cholesterol. White meat is generally high in Vitamin B, particularly B3 and B12 for brain function and blood health (5).
As the most common white meat type, chicken breasts and secondly thighs are considered the lowest-fat land-animal to eat. Vitamin D is found in chicken, which helps with calcium absorption. Phosphorus found in chicken meat helps maintain bone health, brain function, dental care, and metabolic function (6). The fattiest part of the chicken is considered the skin, which is why low-fat diets recommend removing the skin before cooking.
Other poultry like turkey, duck and goose are also high in protein, zinc, iron, vitamin B and magnesium. It makes a huge difference in reducing strokes, diabetes and heart disease (7). All forms of white meat are great sources of protein for healthy bones, nails, hair and natural hormones.
White meat is a great addition to any healthy plate, and familiar foods like chicken is an easy way to introduce healthy meats into your family’s dinner rotation.
For a luxurious, pub meal feel that’s quick and easy during the week, try our baked chicken parmi here. You can also buy chef-made ready meals from our shelf.