How do I know if my meat is of good quality?
There is no doubt it has become complicated these days when it comes to the question ‘What meat do I buy?’
It’s become a bit of a minefield with all the terminology alongside marketing spiel.
So I hope this post brings a little clarity.
And I will continue to do more research and share it with you.
What is good quality meat? What meat do I buy
The colour of meat is related to the levels of a red-coloured, oxygen-supplying protein, myoglobin, in 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.
Which means 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.
So, well looked after animals will provide far better quality meat.
And give them a nicer life.
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 high-quality 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.
- Food i.e. no artificial additives are added to their feed; grass-fed and even better pasture-raised are the way forward.
- 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 high-quality produce and it ticks all the above boxes.
The final there is the supply chain i.e. ‘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.
It’s in the labelling (sometimes)
Ok, so here are some of the terminologies to start unravelling.
Let’s start with the word ‘organic’.
It’s been played upon heavily by the supermarket marketing departments.
Which have muddled what is meant by actual high-quality, high-standard farming with all the rest. Not good.
So, we need to learn a bit more if we’re serious about quality AND animal welfare AND the environment.
The differences; grass-fed, grain-fed, pasture-raised
Pasture-fed (or aka pasture-raised) is 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 or pasture-raised is when the animal is fed 100 per cent only on pasture. Simples.
But 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’s by far the best way to buy produce with the environment and animal welfare in mind.
Quality equals flavour
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 as 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 more pasture.
But like I mentioned above, it doesn’t mean farmers don’t supplement in other fed sources.
It’s also leaner than the grain-fed and has higher levels of good fats such as omega 3.
It all sounds rather confusing!
But ultimately, it’s just different farming methods and differences in flavour.
So always try and buy with animal welfare on your mind.
And the environment.
btw… I never said this was going to be easy!
For info on chickens and the minefield of definitions for them, visit here