Thursday, November 26, 2009

White Meat or Dark?

wild turkeys
wild turkeys (photo from e-Nature)
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based on information from e-Nature

Most people really have an opinion about whether they prefer white or dark meat on the Thanksgiving bird. On the turkey, the legs and thighs are dark while the breast is white. Why?

It's all about muscle fiber. Red muscle fiber is mostly found in the legs and thighs of birds like chickens and turkeys, while in ducks and geese this type appears in the breast. The muscles serve different purposes in these two broad categories of birds.

Turkeys and chickens spend most of their time on the ground running around and scratching for food. They use their legs all the time. These muscles function aerobically and do not tire easily. The tissues are full of fat and sugar to fuel the aerobic metabolism. Think of a marathon runner- this uses aerobic metabolism.

On the other hand, small songbirds, geese and ducks are good flyers. Their breast muscles have to sustain that effort and so they are red, aerobic fibers.

White meat is anaerobic muscle- designed for short bursts of power. Turkeys can and do fly, but usually only when surprised by a predator. If pressed, turkeys can fly at 55 mph, but they won't do so for long. Anaerobic muscles tire quickly. Think of weight lifting- this uses anaerobic metabolism.

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