Saturday, August 30, 2008

Dark meat or white meat?

No, this is not a Racist Presidential Post

Somehow my brain got to thinking about muscle tissue. Why? Your guess is as good as mine. But thinking about it I am. And so I went on a fact finding mission.

Remember the 6th grade? Aside from being kicked in the face by the cutest boy in school, Chuck Robinson, as he tried to jump over me on the bus and getting a sneaker-print bruise on my cheek ( and being kind of proud of that) not much happened that I considered interesting then. Or now. Except for one thing.
Art class.
My teacher (I can't remember if it was a man or a woman) showed us a neat trick: Draw a wavy line on a piece of paper with a sharp pencil. Then, draw subsequent lines as close as possible all over the paper. You end up with a design that looks a little like muscle tissue:

Straited muscle tissue, in fact. Just in case you were wondering. In shades of grey, not pink. When striated muscles contract, tiny parts of these muscle, actin and myosin, "walk" towards each other. Imagine holding your hands together, palm to fingers. Now, "walk" your fingers of each hand towards your elbows.

That's basically how your muscles contract.

Now, not all muscles are the same. We use some of our muscle more than others (Insert your own dirty joke here), as do other animals. Chickens, for example, don't use their "white meat" muscles very much, so those muscle don't require as much energy as their more energetic brethren, the legs. Chickens use their legs a lot, I suppose. And that means those "dark meat" muscles need more energy.

Which brings me, albeit the looong way around, to my thoughts in question: Which is better- dark meat or white meat? Of course, we're talking chicken here. Some folks say that white meat tastes better, and it does have a milder flavor. Some folks say dark meat is juicier and more flavorful.

"Dark meat" muscles have more myoglobin, the stuff that helps carry oxygen and reduces the build up of carbon dioxide. Muscles that need a lot of oxygen will have more of this stuff. Conversely, myoglobin is related to hemoglobin, the stuff in your red blood cells that makes them, well, red. Both of these molecules have an iron atom in their center to hold the oxygen. Dark meat, therefore has a lot of iron in it. Which is a good thing.

I found something out in my research, but it will probably only be interesting to me- the charge on the iron in uncooked meat is +2 (red color) but in cooked meat it's +3 (brown color) and guess what- the iron in rust is +3, too. Which might explain why rust is brown? I wonder if that means a rusty spike will taste like a steak with enough A1 sauce...

...Yeah, there's a great big silence on this side of the monitor too as we all pause to wonder what the Hell I'm talking about...

If you suffer from anemia or other low iron diseases then dark meat is what you want- but pair it with a food with Vitamin C, or another acid, since the acid makes it easier for your body to use the iron. Don't ask me how, my pediatrician told me that.

But if you have too much iron in your system, skip the dark meat.

And guess what else I learned? Muscles release a lot of myoglobin upon injury. When a patient is suspected of having had a heart attack ( a muscle!) one of the blood tests done is to check the myoglobin levels. I would also suspect that doctors do this test for patients with a large trauma to the body, like falling out of something and smacking a large percentage of their surface area on the concrete.

So which is better? I like them both, but if you're eating purposefully, that is, with an end result in mind- higher iron levels, then eat the legs!!! But if you have hemachromatosis, eat the breast.


Mrs. Who said...

Now if you could just explain why so much stuff tastes like chicken...

KurtP said...

I generally like white meat better because I don't have the bones and connective tissue to worry about.

Breast meat
Mirical whip