How to differentiate white and red meat?

White and red meats are animal-based proteins that have their own unique flavors and health benefits, although the latter carries higher risk factors.

What are red meats?

Experts define red meat as any animal protein obtained from mammals. Beef, pork , lamb , and venison are popular types of red meat. These protein sources tend to be red in color when raw, thanks to the high presence of myoglobin, a protein in the blood, and turn a deeper red or dark brown color when cooked.

Moderate consumption of red meat contributes to a healthy and balanced diet. Although high in saturated fat, unprocessed red meat contains high amounts of essential proteins, fatty acids, vitamins and minerals such as vitamin D, vitamin B12, vitamin B6 and zinc.

However, public health experts have linked excessive consumption of red meat (especially processed meats such as hot dogs, bacon, deli meats, or salami) to a variety of health risk factors, including increased blood pressure and increased risk coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer. Processing red meat products often involves adding salt, flavorings, or preservatives (such as nitrates, which can interact with other compounds and become carcinogenic) to preserve their shelf life or change their flavor.


Beef is the most consumed type of red meat. Different cuts of beef are used for various types of steak, ground beef is made into burger patties, and beef chunks are good for casseroles. In fact, some types of beef steak like tenderloin are on the list of the most tender cuts of meat.

Veal is also a type of red meat but it is the meat from calves in contrast to beef from cattle. Red meat is really good for you when eaten in moderation. For example, beef is one of the best sources of iron, vitamin B12, and zinc.


Pork is actually classified as red meat due to the levels of myoglobin in the meat. This is despite the fact that fresh pork is lighter in color than beef and becomes very light when cooked.

Due to its low price and high protein content, pork is one of the most popular types of meat in the world. As with most cuts of meat, the exact nutritional content of pork varies depending on the type of cut.

For example, 85 grams of roast pork loin may contain as little as 3.5 grams of fat. The same size serving of a cooked pork chop contains 11 grams of fat, and pork ribs have 21 grams of fat. Like all kinds of red meat, pork is a good source of protein and iron.


A lean cut of lamb is considered by many to be one of the healthiest types of red meat to eat. Lamb meat is an important source of all essential amino acids and high-quality protein. Lamb is similar to mutton, but the only difference is that mutton is the meat of an adult sheep.

One of the reasons lamb is a healthy meat choice is that lambs are generally raised naturally. Sheep grow fat by eating grass and are generally fed a natural, healthy diet.

85 grams of cooked lamb contains 20 grams of protein which is 42% of the recommended daily value. In this serving of lamb, there is only 8.6 g of fat, half of which is unsaturated types of fat. Lamb is also a good source of vitamin B12, niacin, and riboflavin.

It is important to remember that the fat content of lamb varies greatly between cuts. To choose the healthiest cut of lamb, we will choose leaner cuts from the loin and leg. Lamb cuts from the ribs or shoulder can have significantly more calories than lean cuts with the fat trimmed.


Venison is a type of deer meat that is very healthy because it is classified as a lean red meat. Although venison ranks high on the list of the healthiest types of red meat, its high price may deter many people from eating it. Venison is also packed with flavor even though it has very little fat.

Comparing its nutritional value, it’s easy to see why venison is a healthy choice of red meat. 3 ounces of venison contains 25 grams of protein, but only 127 calories and just 2 grams of fat. Less than half of the fat content is saturated fat. Venison is rich in all the B vitamins and contains many essential minerals.


Rabbit is a type of lean red meat rich in protein and nutrients. Although rabbit is a healthy choice of meat, it is rarely eaten in many countries. Rabbit is classified as game meat, although rabbits are also farmed in the country for their meat. Rabbit meat makes a tasty, low-calorie stew.

Rabbit’s nutritional profile reveals that it’s better for you than beef or pork. 85 grams of stewed rabbit contains only 147 calories and less than 3 grams of fat. However, we do get 28 grams of protein along with good amounts of vitamins and minerals.

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What are white meats?

White meat refers to any type of animal protein that is white when not cooked and remains white after cooking. Various types of poultry, including chicken , turkey , or duck , are popular examples of white meat. White meat contains lower myoglobin content than red meat, giving it a leaner quality and much lower in saturated fat.

However, many white proteins, such as turkey or chicken, fall into “light meat” or “dark meat” categories, depending on the presence of two basic types of muscle fibers: white fibers (lean muscle responsible for short and fast) and red fibers (the fattest, slow-twitch muscle used for prolonged movements, such as standing up).

Light meat (such as skinless chicken or turkey breast) contains mostly white fibers, and dark meat contains mostly red fibers, although both types contain concentrations of each fiber. The increased presence of proteins that convert fat into energy (such as myoglobin, which is purple in color and packed with iron) gives dark meat its characteristic dark color. It is more flavorful than white meat because it contains more fat and protein than its counterpart.


Chicken is the most common bird or type of bird consumed. The reason chicken is so popular is due to its versatility and low fat content. In fact, some say that chicken is one of the most popular types of white meat in the world.

To prepare the chicken, we can roast it, bake it, steam it, roast it or fry it. Of course, fried chicken is high in calories due to the higher fat content. Chicken breast is considered one of the healthiest meat options you can buy. For example, an 85-gram serving of chicken breast contains 170 calories and only 7 grams of fat. This serving size also contains 25 grams of protein and some iron.

Other cuts of chicken meat contain more calories. For example, a serving of the thigh contains 180 calories, the thigh has 210 calories, and the wing has 240 calories.


Turkey is a large poultry that is in the same white meat category as chicken. Turkey meat is a slightly darker meat than chicken but contains fewer calories.

When it comes to popular types of white meat, turkey is not as popular as chicken. Turkey meat, especially the breast, is drier than chicken; however, both of these poultry are excellent sources of lean protein.

Like chicken, turkey is an excellent source of healthy protein and has good amounts of B vitamins. Of course, when it comes to comparing turkey and chicken, turkey stands out in terms of size. An average turkey weighs around 3.6kg, while a standard broiler might only weigh 2.7kg or less.


Another bird in the white meat category is the duck. Although duck meat is slightly darker than chicken or turkey, it still appears as white meat.

Duck meat is widely used in Chinese cuisine, with Peking duck being a popular dish. Other ways to eat duck include roasting the breast with the skin on or using duck offal meat to make duck pate.

As with other types of poultry, duck meat is a good source of protein and many other nutrients. A 100-gram serving of skinless duck breast contains 4.5 mg of iron, 13.9 mg of selenium and 186 mg of phosphorus. These nutritional values are between 20% and 25% of the recommended daily intake.

Main differences

Red meat and white meat are nutrient-dense proteins that are tasty and low in carbohydrates. However, there are some key differences between the two.

  • Protein Source – Red meat comes from mammals such as cows, pigs, deer, and rabbits, while white meat comes from poultry such as chicken, turkey, or duck.
  • Color : Thanks to high levels of myoglobin, a protein in the blood, red meat, both raw and cooked, has a dark crimson color. On the other hand, white meat has a pale color before and after cooking.
  • Nutritional differences : Red and white meats contain essential amino acids, vitamins and minerals. However, white meat has fewer calories and less protein and iron than red meat.
  • Saturated fat and cholesterol content : Red meat contains higher levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), sometimes known as “bad cholesterol,” and saturated fat than lean white meat. Excessive consumption of red meat can increase blood cholesterol levels and carries an increased risk of colorectal cancer and cardiovascular disease. With its lower saturated fat content, white meat consumption is associated with fewer adverse health effects.
  • Cooking Methods : Lean, light-white animal proteins dry out more quickly during cooking than juicy, myoglobin-packed red meat or dark meat (such as a chicken thigh). The best methods for cooking meat from the lighter category (especially light cuts like chicken breast) help keep it moist, such as basting, foiling, or poaching, for better flavor and texture. Juicy red meats are great for cooking at high temperatures with techniques like grilling or pan-frying to draw out the juices and plump up as they cook.