How do I know if my meat is of good quality?
The colour of meat is related to the levels of a red-coloured, oxygen-supplying protein, myoglobin, in an animals muscles.
You can see myoglobin. It’s that red juice you see with steak. People mistake it for blood.
The higher the levels of myoglobin, the darker and redder the meat.
The lower levels of myoglobin result in paler meat.
Some animals have varying levels of myoglobin in different muscles so you can have both light and dark areas of the meat.
So for example, meat from a leg will be darker as the muscles need more oxygen so have more myoglobin.
As animals grow older, myoglobin levels increase as muscles strengthen and fat increases adding flavour.
Organic meat: Is it really tastier & healthier?
Yes. Animals that are exercised, well-fed and not stressed produce better quality meat.
This is because their muscles are being used and produce fat (which adds flavour).
But you need to be careful to check that your meat is truly reaching organic standards.
So here are some things to look for when buying organic meat.
- Animal welfare: The animals need to be well looked after with outdoor access and a stress-free life.
- Organic feed i.e. no artificial additives are added to their feed.
- No antibiotics or growth hormones are used.
- Sustainable farming. Farmers practise farming that looks after the land and environment.
- The animals are slaughtered humanely.
Even if you do buy organic and it ticks all the above boxes.
The final check is ‘how far did it travel?’
Where possible, buy local.
The further the meat travels, the longer it’s been stored and therefore the quality drops.
The closer, the better.
Grass-fed vs grain-fed: what does it mean?
It comes down to flavour.
A grain-fed animal will produce muscle with more flavoursome fat.
It also is less acidic and contains a substance called lactones which produces a nice beefier flavour.
Grass-fed meat is often described a having a less beefy taste and a more grassy flavour (makes sense).
Grass-fed beef is more nutritious, better for the environment, and better for the farmer as the animals are eating pasture so the farmer isn’t spending on grain.
It’s also leaner than the grain-fed and has higher levels of good fats such as omega 3.
A whole new thing I’ve uncovered in my research.
Which you may start seeing on products. It’s a ‘Pasture for Life’ certification mark which shows the animal has been pasture-fed.
So, what’s the difference?
Basically, pasture-fed is when the animal is fed 100 per cent only on pasture. Simples.
So grass-fed animals can still eat other things including grains.
Most farmers ‘finish’ their animals on cereals in order to get them to the desired weight.
Sometimes animals are ‘grass-finished’ alongside grain feeding.
Pasture-fed cows not only feed on grass but munch on herbs, flowers, clover and other legumes that lurk on their pasture.
This gives a rich, intense flavour to the meat, with a slight herbal sweetness.
It’s not a prolific farming method, currently. But keep an eye out for it.
It all sounds rather confusing! But ultimately, it’s just different farming methods and differences in flavour.
But always buy with animal welfare on your mind.