When you’re at the grocery’s meat section, you’re likely immediately drawn to the reddest meats on the counter. When you receive orders from an online meat shop with meats that aren’t as red as you’d expect them to be, you immediately think that you didn’t get the fresh cuts you wanted. When you retrieve stored beef from the freezer before cooking and notice that it looks a little gray, you immediately conclude they’ve gone bad and toss them to the bin.
Guilty? Our instincts are quick to make a connection between beef color and its quality, or perhaps, it’s something we’ve been told about by our mothers when we started learning how to cook.
But stop! It’s actually not what you think it is. A quick science lesson will teach us the real reason behind beef color and perhaps, save you from throwing out meat that could otherwise have still made for a delicious meal.
WHAT FACTORS INITIALLY AFFECT BEEF COLOR?
There’s actually a number of things that can affect the color of a piece of meat. It’s influenced by the animal’s age, species, sex, diet, and even exercise. Older animals have more myoglobin in their muscles. Additionally, exercised muscles are darker in color, meaning the same animal can have variations of color in its own muscles.
BUT CAN BEEF COLOR CHANGE THROUGH TIME? HOW?
Deep Purple Beef contains the protein myoglobin in its tissues. You’ll find that beef that’s freshly butchered comes in a deep purplish color with a tinge of brown due to myoglobin. If it’s been vacuum-sealed at the store, the beef could also still look slightly purple.
Cherry Red Whether it’s from being displayed on the counter or from opening a vacuum-sealed package, as the beef (consequently, the myoglobin) comes in contact with oxygen, it changes into a lighter, cherry red color. What’s happened here is that myoglobin has turned into the compound oxymyoglobin.
Grayish-Brown Eventually, oxygen-exposed meat will oxidize due to myoglobin containing iron, creating metmyoglobin. This gives the beef a grayish-brown color, but does not necessarily mean that the meat has spoiled.
Cherry Red on the Outside, Gray on the Inside Sometimes, packaged beef appears a healthy red on the outside, but slightly gray on the inside. Once again, this is a result of myoglobin’s interaction with oxygen. Beef on the surface that’s been exposed to more oxygen turns cherry red, while beef deep into the center of the package that hasn’t been exposed to as much oxygen retains some purplish color, appearing gray next to the red portions.
SO WHEN DO I KNOW IF THE BEEF HAS GONE BAD?
If you notice a change in smell or consistency along with the change of color in your beef, it likely means it’s time to toss it. If all you notice, however, is a change in color, that’s just natural science in action.
WHAT MAKES BETTER BEEF THEN?
Now that you know that redder beef doesn’t necessarily mean better beef and a purple/gray color doesn’t necessarily mean it’s gone bad, focus on other important things when choosing your meat such as beef grading. WHERE DO I GET QUALITY BEEF?
At Premier Food Choice, we offer premier quality beef.
SHOP NOW ON OUR WEBSITE: Beef Cuts
Head over to our website to shop our catalogue and have your meats delivered right to your doorstep!