Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Turkey's Dark Meat: More Nutrients than White Meat

My annual "Dark meat is so much better than white meat for several reasons" post:

Happy Thanksgiving!

As usual, there will be a scrum at our buffet table.

I eat the dark meat of turkey (and chicken) almost exclusively, since I find it more flavorful and tender than white meat. Unfortunately, many at my Thanksgiving meal feel the same way.

But why is some meat dark and some white? Here’s the scoop, courtesy of the Really? column in The New York Times:

"In general, what makes one cut of turkey — or any other type of poultry — darker than another is the type of muscle it contains. Meat is darker if it contains higher levels of myoglobin, a compound that enables muscles to transport oxygen, which is needed to fuel activity. Since turkeys and chickens are flightless and walk a lot, their leg meat is dark while their wing and breast meat are white."
Contrary to popular belief, the article adds, dark meat has only marginal more fat and calories than white meat:
"[A]ccording to the Department of Agriculture, an ounce of boneless, skinless turkey breast contains about 46 calories and 1 gram of fat, compared with roughly 50 calories and 2 grams of fat for an ounce of boneless, skinless thigh."
And, as usually is the case (magnified for foods from quality sources), the fattier version is much more nutrient-dense:
"Compared with white meat, [dark meat] contains more iron, zinc, riboflavin, thiamine, and vitamins B6 and B12."
Click here to read the entire article.


Oni said...

Any idea why chicken legs are cheaper than chicken breast?

Chef Rob said...


Great question! Maybe the breasts are considered superior quality to the legs (and thighs)? Deboning adds some cost, for sure. I'll try to find out more.


Anonymous said...

I think they are considered non-elite. Breast -- deboned and without skin -- takes all the work away. I remember when these were the "new" thing. Before that I baked them "bone in" or deboned them myself. We never thought to get rid of the skin, but of course then the low-fat movement showed us the skin was too fat and unhealthy. It was like going overnight from deboning my own (or baking them with bones in) and removing the skin -- to the convenience of having it all done for us. More healthy and less work -- what homemaker wouldn't bite at that, even if it cost more?

Chef Rob said...


I wouldn't be so quick to take the low-fat movement's belief that we should be avoiding fat as gospel.

The low-fat experiment of the last 35 years has been a miserable failure. (Emphasis on "experiment," as no widespread studies exist that show its effects.)

Anonymous said...

On America's test kitchen, they said certain turkeys are preferred because of the large amount of breast meat. They mentioned "the other kind", and I didn't take notes. It was an eye-opener that I could get a turkey with more dark meat – but now I have to find out which one it is!
Does anyone know?