Meat: description and nutritional values

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Robert Maurer

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Meat it is a plastic food rich in essential amino acids and poor in vitamins which, consumed in moderation and of good quality, can have some beneficial effects. Let's find out better.

> 1. What is meat made of?

> 2. Organoleptic characteristics 

> 3. Nutritional value of meat

> 4. Useful tips on meat consumption



What is meat made of?

Meat for food use it is mainly represented by muscle mass of animals with a part of connective tissue (white), more or less infiltrated with fat.

The most used animal species belong to mammals (cattle, pigs, sheep and horses) and birds (chickens, turkeys, geese, pigeons and the like) and fish.

As we have said, meat is mainly composed of muscle tissues in turn formed by long and thin cells (myofibrils) independent from each other. These myofibrils are arranged parallel to each other and are surrounded by connective tissue. The connective tissue, inside which blood vessels and nerves flow, thus joins the different bundles to each other and to the animal's bone.

During cooking, these two tissues (muscular and connective) behave in a distinctly different way: the muscle fibers, by coagulating, become harder while the connective tissue softens more and more. The humidity, during cooking, increases the action of heat both by softening the connective tissue and by hardening the muscle fiber.

La softness of the meat, therefore, it depends especially on the type and quantity of connective tissue present in it and which varies according to the muscle area from which it was taken. Everything explains how it becomes necessary to apply the right cooking method to the different cuts of meat.

Another constituent of the meat is the adipose (fat) tissue which is present in variable quantities in all types of meat and which is deposited under the skin of the animal (covering fat) and between the muscle bundles with different locations. The amount of fat varies in relation to the species of the animal (one of the poorest meats is that of horse), to the state of nutrition (with variations from 5 to 30%), to the age (it increases with the advancement of this) and sex.

A good quality meat must be accompanied by a certain amount of fat because it indicates the state of nutrition and health of the slaughtered animal. To combine the good nutritional quality and the good digestibility of the meat, one can choose the lean meat of the fatty animal.


Meat and its organoleptic characteristics

In the appreciation of the gastronomic qualities of the meat and, therefore, of the commercial value, various organoleptic characteristics come into play, from softness to aroma, from color to juiciness.


  • il red color of the flesh it is due to proteins present in the muscle and blood of the animal (respectively myoglobin and hemoglobin). The intensity of the color, which ranges from pink to deep red, varies according to the species (beef is redder than pork), age (the flesh of adult animals is darker than that of young specimens ), sex (females, all other things being equal, have less colored flesh than males), type of diet and breed;
  • il fat color it ranges from milky white to straw yellow. The meat of animals fed with fodder rich in carotene has a more yellow adipose tissue than the meat of animals fed exclusively with cereals;
  • la grana it is that particular aspect that the transverse section of the muscle presents and is fine in top quality tender meats (especially in young animals) becoming more and more coarse as the quality of the meat decreases;
  • la weaving it is given by the quantity of connective tissue that brings together the muscle bundles. It is compact in well fed animals while it is lax in malnourished, very young, old or exploited for milk production;
  • il flavor it is characteristic of each species and is particularly marked in adult males, goats and sheep. The type of feed also has considerable importance in giving flavors to the meats: animals raised with feed rich in cereals provide sweeter meats while sulfur compounds, present in wild garlic and onion consumed by animals during grazing, give the meat a more flavor. strong;
  • theodor it must be characteristic and not unpleasant;
  • il pH it is acidic in fresh meat and alkaline if the meat is in a more or less advanced state of putrefaction.


More meat, more strength: is it true?


Nutritional value of meat

Meat is an excellent "plastic food", it has, in fact, a high biological value, containing many essential amino acids and also being easily digested. In general, all types of meat are more or less completely digested, consequently the absorption of its various constituents by our body is high (in fact, the utilization coefficient exceeds 95%).

The fat that covers the muscle fibers, however, decreases their assimilability as it hinders the action of the gastric juices responsible for breaking down the meat itself.

The most digestible meat is that of younger animals, since it is made up of short muscle fibers while that of adults, in addition to being made up of long fibers, is rich in connective tissue which has a low digestibility coefficient.

The average composition of the meat is represented by water (circa 70-80%), protein (about 20% composed of noble amino acids), lipids (3-7%), mineral salts (2-4%, especially phosphates and chlorides, potassium, iron, magnesium, calcium and sodium) e sugar (0,5% which after slaughter are fermented in lactic acid by bacteria).

Le Vitamins they are scarcely present, however the most abundant are B1, B2, PP, B12 and pantothenic acid. However, individual animal species and various anatomical parts have their own specific composition.


Some advices

Meat is a great food though eaten in moderation. Compared to eating too much, perhaps of poor quality and for long periods prefer it little but good!

Using routinely cooking at high temperatures and on the grill can, on the one hand, lead to the loss of nutritional principles in the meat and, on the other hand, to the accumulation of harmful substances that manifest, over time, possible pathologies.

Finally, buy meat from animals intensive breeding which take little account of the well-being of the animal and the environment certainly leads to savings on the spot but also to a greater probability of consuming meats rich in substances that are not really beneficial.


Read the WHO directive on meat consumption


Other articles on meat:

> Observations on meat consumption

> What are the meat substitutes?

> A brief history of meat consumption

> How Meat and Sugar Affect Temperament

> Red meat and cancer incidence



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