While reading an article, I saw this question:

Do you prefer brown meat or white meat?

I definitely don't know what this means. Could you tell me more about it?

  • Homework? Have you looked for answers anywhere?
    – Kris
    Sep 18 '14 at 15:35

White meat and red meat are typically used to define what type of animal is being eaten:

white meat
|(h)waɪt mit|
pale meat such as poultry, veal, and rabbit. Often contrasted with red meat .

red meat
|ˈˈrɛd ˈmit|
meat that is red when raw, for example beef or lamb. Often contrasted with white meat


The term brown meat should read dark meat and is used opposite the term white meat to describe the darker (brown) parts (non-breast meat) of a typical white meat animal—usually poultry.

I have not heard of black meat.

  • 1
    Have you ever actually heard of brown meat? Searching quickly, I didn't see anyone actually using it to refer to the color of the meat.
    – MrHen
    Jul 15 '11 at 3:21
  • @MrHen: No, I guess I haven't. OP maybe saw it here. Funny, I'm finding it on other ESL sites as well. Editing accordingly. Jul 15 '11 at 3:32
  • 1
    The french term for dark meat is viande brune (lit. brown meat) That's probably how the OP or his source got this
    – 3Doubloons
    Jul 15 '11 at 13:36
  • Since nobody has mentioned it, I'll just note that the colour of meat is due to pigmentation in myoglobin, and is not exclusive to any animal (that is, a fish can have red meat) - in fact, the chicken we see and eat today is mostly white because of modern farming - for instance, such colouration can occur due to the amount of work an animal carries out (the more work done, the more oxidised the myoglobin becomes, and hence, more colourful.) This can be observed in some fish, where certain parts of their meat is red, due to the work the muscles in that area do to keep the fish swimming. Jul 15 '11 at 15:13

I typically see the comparison between dark meat and white meat:

White meat or light meat refers to the lighter-colored meat of poultry as contrasted with dark meat.

The article also has this to say:

The exact definite demarcation line may be changing. Game is sometimes put in a separate category of meat altogether (French viandes noires, black meats).

Red meat is more commonly used to refer to that of mammals:

Red meat in traditional culinary terminology is meat which is red when raw and not white when cooked. In the nutritional sciences, red meat includes all mammal meat. Red meat includes the meat of most adult mammals and some fowl (e.g. ducks).

I've never actually heard of brown meat but there is a technique known as browning meat:

Browning is the process of partially cooking meat to help remove excessive fat and to give the meat a brown color and flavor through various browning reactions.

  • Rabbit isn't considered white meat?
    – Mitch
    Jul 15 '11 at 14:31

'Brown meat' can refer to a particular sort of meat found in crustaceans: it's a fairly rare and technical usage.

The European Commission has published an amendment to the Contaminants Regulation (Regulation 1881/2006) with a rewording of the Regulation that removes all reference to the 'brown meat of crab'. Brown meat is exempt from the limits placed on heavy metals, dioxins and polychlorinated biophenyls (PCBs), and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. In its place, the new wording describes the meat to which maximum levels apply as 'muscle meat from appendages and abdomen'.

Incidentally, 'green meat' is often used as a term for meat that has been around too long to be safe for human consumption: it is sometimes put into petfood (or cheap sausages, allegedly).

  • +1 - As a USAsian, I had never heard this one before.
    – T.E.D.
    Jul 15 '11 at 12:09
  • +1 - As an Australian, I had never heard this one before. Jul 15 '11 at 13:44

I'm guessing they meant "dark meat", as in the darker-colored meat from certain parts of poultry (the legs and thighs of a chicken or turkey, for example, as opposed to the much lighter, "white" meat from the breast and wings).

"Red meat" (from cows, primarily, in the US anyway) is very clearly red prior to being cooked, but also turns brown during the cooking process. However, it's normal to refer to it as red meat, not brown meat.

  • "Red meat" is usually contrasted to chicken or fish, so could be mutton or pork. Jul 15 '11 at 13:44

It looks to me like your title and your question are different questions.

To answer the actual question about the sentence Do you prefer brown meat or white meat?...

Almost certainly the person was referring to chicken (probably fried chicken). If I'm right, the question should actually be Do you prefer dark meat or white meat? This is the traditional way to categorize the various parts of a chicken. The meat from the breast and wings of chicken is considerably lighter in color than the rest of the chicken, and is referred to as "white meat". The rest of the chicken (typically just the thighs and legs) is darker in color, and is referred to as "dark meat". Most (but not all) people prefer the taste of white meat, and it has less fat so it is relatively healthier (an advantage which is rendered kind of moot when you then deep-fry the food). But because people have these preferences, vendors who specialize in selling prepared chicken generally are forced to offer it as all dark or all white, and to ask you Dark or white meat? when you order.

Other poultry also has this distinction, although they vary by what parts (if any) are considered "white meat". Actually, most are all "dark meat". Here's what Wikipedia has to say on the subject.

Dark meat, which avian myologists (bird muscle scientists) refer to as "red muscle," is used for sustained activity—chiefly walking, in the case of a chicken. The dark color comes from the protein myoglobin, which plays a key role in oxygen uptake within cells. White muscle, in contrast, is suitable only for short, ineffectual bursts of activity such as, for chickens, flying. Thus the chicken's leg and thigh meat are dark while its breast meat (which makes up the primary flight muscles) is white. Other birds with breast muscle more suitable for sustained flight, such as ducks and geese, have red muscle (and therefore dark meat) throughout.

  • 1
    Dark meat is also usually cheaper so a person who has no specific preference may opt for it to save a few dollars.
    – 3Doubloons
    Jul 15 '11 at 13:38
  • 1
    The most common place I run into this is with turkey at Thanksgiving, because all the meat is sliced before eating. So you have a plate of dark meat and a plate of light meat. Jul 15 '11 at 14:17
  • @Alex Brault - Right. The reason for this is that (again) more people prefer white meat, while a chicken has the same number of pieces of dark and white meat. Simple economics will tell you the dark meat will end up being cheaper.
    – T.E.D.
    Jul 15 '11 at 18:42
  • @T.E.D. - Most Americans prefer the white meat, even though the dark meat tastes better and is not so dry. Not all cultures prefer quantity over quality, and thus dark meat is preferred in some countries. Jul 15 '11 at 20:56
  • 1
    @thursdaysgeek - For the record my wife agrees with you verbatim. However, this is clearly a matter of opinion, and thus should not be stated as a fact. The majority of us aren't perverse masochistic people who prefer things that taste worse to us. I actually can't stand the taste of dark meat, and will throw it away rather than eat it.
    – T.E.D.
    Jul 15 '11 at 21:53

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