Vet on call: Understanding the various kinds of meat

A butcher cuts a steak at the Kiamaiko slaughterhouse in Huruma, Nairobi, in 2018. Good quality meat should be free of extraneous material such as dirt or plant matter. It should also be free of contamination with stomach and intestinal content.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Muscle foods are classified as meat, poultry and sea foods. In this case, meat is from all animals other than birds and aquatic creatures.  
  • Muscle foods, especially meat and poultry, are heavily consumed during the festive season and many other festivities. The foods are normally more expensive than plant-based foods.
  • Roast meat projects the aroma furthest in the air compared to fried and boiled meat, mainly because the scent is directly carried by the wind.
  • Good quality meat should be free of extraneous material such as dirt or plant matter. It should also be free of contamination with stomach and intestinal content.

We call them the muscle foods due to their origin. Generally, people call the food simply meat. When we talk of types of meat from different sources, we can call it meats.

This breaks the rule of English grammar that dictates only countable items can have a plural term; but then when we say meats, we make meat countable by referring to its sources.

The foods are, therefore, the types of edible muscle tissues derived from domestic and wild land and aquatic creatures.

Muscle foods are classified as meat, poultry and sea foods. In this case, meat is from all animals other than birds and aquatic creatures.  

Muscle foods, especially meat and poultry, are heavily consumed during the festive season and many other festivities. The foods are normally more expensive than plant-based foods.

The main reason is that they are a delicacy in most communities, they are grown or harvested with special requirements and are packed with high quality nutrients especially proteins, minerals and vitamins. In addition, muscle foods are handled, transported and stored in highly specialised ways.

The delicacy of roast meat is not restricted to the tongue. The nose can pick up the aroma of meat being roasted from a distance as it wafts in the air.

I recall when we were young boys we would walk the ridges on Christmas Day sniffing the air to count the number of homes where meat was being roasted.

We could even tell if the meat was almost ready and make an impromptu visit to the chagrin of the resident kids.

Good quality

Years later, in veterinary school, our meat training professor unravelled the phenomenon of the roast meat smell.

I was happy to understand the precision of our boyish adventures. In addition to nutrients, meat has aroma or smell molecules.

They transform under different levels of exposure to heat and length of time the heat is applied. At the point when the meat is well-cooked, the aroma is most pleasant.

Roast meat projects the aroma furthest in the air compared to fried and boiled meat, mainly because the scent is directly carried by the wind.

I was reviewing the prices of meats at a supermarket this week and reminiscing over my childhood Christmas experiences when someone greeted me.

She said she recognised me as the vet doctor who writes about livestock. She told me she was Rina and then asked me whether I thought the meats sold in the market are good quality. Rina’s question is common whenever I meet people in circumstances where there is meat. 

It is a difficult one to answer directly because the quality of meat is highly dynamic depending on a number of factors. 

I, therefore, always prefer to advise people on the factors that influence the quality of meats so that when they encounter the food, they are able to gauge for themselves whether its quality is trustworthy.

As you enjoy your meat delicacy this festive season, keep in mind that meat is a highly regulated food under the Meat Control Act and the Public Health Act. 

Well-defined fat content

It is okay to assume that all meat sold or served in a licensed establishment is of good quality. However, one should also always observe if the meat is well-stored in a place free of dust and vermin such as flies.

Poultry and sea foods should be kept cooled while meat from sheep, goats and cattle can be kept at room temperature for a day. Pork deteriorates faster than meat from ruminants and is kept unpreserved for a shorter period.

One should also ensure that the establishment selling the meat is clean and hygienic. I always walk away if I find dirty staff selling meat or handling meat and money at the same time. 

Meat is easily contaminated with micro-organisms that cause disease or poisoning in humans. Meat with a rotting odour should be avoided. Contaminated meat may also have slime and abnormal colouration such as greenish or whitish.

Good quality meat should be free of extraneous material such as dirt or plant matter. It should also be free of contamination with stomach and intestinal content.

The taste and texture of meat are qualities that cannot be determined visually; but the source and appearance of the meat can give indications of the likelihood that the meat is tasty and of desired texture. 

Tasty and soft red meat is juicy with a medium to dull-red colour. It also has well-defined fat content called marbling separating the muscle units.

White fat mainly indicates the meat is from young animals while yellow fat indicates advanced age. Meat from young animals is juicier and softer than from older animals.

Bright red meat should be avoided because it may have been preserved with undesirable chemicals. 

jmugachia@yahoo.com

Welcome!

You're all set to enjoy unlimited Prime content.