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Aug 14, 2008 02:29 PM

Odd question... do we eat muscle or what?

I have been having a debate with a friend about whether we eat toned muscle or flab in other animals, like chickens and cows. I'm referring to general, popular cuts like breast and filet mignon. Would it be tastier for most people if the animals were toned and muscular or the reverse?

I know this sounds like an odd question. It was inspired by a friendly debate about who would be tastier (were we cannibals) - I am sort of curvy while he is rail thin and toned.

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  1. Ha! Sounds like a conversation I would have with a few people I know. Personally, I think I'd rather eat your friend (hope you're not offended). ; )

    I find lean meat to be more flavorful. Problem with lean meat is that the texture tends to be stringier and not as tender. It's kind of like the difference with factory farmed chicken and free range chicken. Free range is probably not as tender as the factory farmed ones that have been cooped up all day with no exercise. But I prefer the flavor of free range -- so flavor wins over texture for me.

    1. We eat muscle and fat.

      We taste something like pork, btw.

      Lean heavily worked muscles of warm-blooded critters are chewy and best cooked rarer (think rump/round). Heavily worked muscles with lots of fat can be chewy but succulent if cooked well (think shoulder). Muscles that are lightly worked can be tender flavorful if well marbled (think rib chops) or rather flavorless and tender if lean (think filet).

      9 Replies
      1. re: Karl S

        "We taste something like pork, btw."
        i'm morbidly curious [i.e. not sure i *really* want to know] how you would know that...

        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

          I've been told, though don't know how it's been tested, that vegetarians taste different from the rest of us omnivores.

          1. re: chowser

            "vegetarians taste different from the rest of us omnivores."

            you'd think so, I imagine falcons taste rather nasty compared to a duck....

            it's the age-old rabbit vs. coyote conundrum.

          2. re: goodhealthgourmet

            longtime reporting in historical reading. I should have said "reportedly", to be clearer.

            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

              I believe in cannibal circles human flesh is called "long pig" for a reason.....

              1. re: Firegoat

                interesting. never heard the "long pig" term, but then again, i've never done much reading on the subject of cannibalism!

                thx for the info - learn somehting new every day...and on CH, sometimes every few hours!

                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                  I first heard/read the term long pig in the book The Naked Ape by Desmond Morris. It was the late 60's. Weird yet interesting book. Made me aware to never order long pig in a restaurant!

            2. re: Karl S

              Funny story: many years ago, my brother was cutting some branches off a tree with a chainsaw, and had an accident in which he cut his leg pretty badly. He goes to the emergency room, and they're able to stitch him up okay, but they end up having to cut off a chunk of flesh from his leg. (Guess the chainsaw left a big flap.) Anyway, once he's fixed up, he tells the doctor he wants to take the piece of tissue they had to remove. The doctor, of course, asks him why he wants it, and he says something like "I want to take it home and cook and eat it, because this is probably the only opportunity I'll ever have to sample human flesh without hurting anyone or having any risk of being infected with some awful disease." (You'd have to know my brother to fully appreciate this, but he was dead serious, and I believe he would have done it.) Anyway, a polite way of describing the doctor's reaction would be to say that he refused the request and told my brother that if he persisted, he would have him committed for 72 hours on some sort of psychological hold/watch.

              I'm told that the Melanesian cannibals in the last century used to refer to human flesh as "long pork" so Karl S is probably correct in his assertion, but since that doctor got all judgmental and closed minded, I don't know anyone with direct experience ;~)

              1. re: David Kahn

                Personally, I'm not sure if I would have done in the same situation, but I can totally understand and appreciate what your brother was trying to do. There is a cultural bias with this -- there have been many issues with women trying to keep their placenta after giving birth. In Traditional Oriental Medicine, placenta is used as medicine. And some cultures advocate eating the placenta to help with post-partum depression.

            3. The tenderest cuts of beef are the least "toned" if you will--they are the least used muscles of the cow, i.e. the tenderloin is from the least used muscle along the backbone. The toughest cuts tend to be from the muscles most used by the animal, like chuck from the shoulder, rump or round from the hind quarter, or the shanks. But it seems the tastiest cuts are the toughest. That fat and connective tissues lend a lot of flavor.

              1 Reply
              1. re: janniecooks

                Janie is correct. Therefore I would eat you.

              2. For poultry, any dark meat is muscle that has gotten exercise (i.e., is "toned"); while white meat is muscle that is very little used (chicken breasts are white because chickens rarely fly; while wild duck breast is dark).

                12 Replies
                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                  Doesn't it come down to fast (white) and slow (dark meat) muscles? Slow twitch do longer, lower intensity work and burns more fat as fuel which is why dark meat is higher in fat and and, hence, softer. Fast twitch muscles (white meat) are for anaerobic work and don't burn fat for fuel which is why it's low in fat. It's used for quick powerful movement, but that doesn't explain why chickens have fast twitch chest muscles., though that's probably more from genetics more than doing the chest press.;-) Maybe they do powerful pecking from the chest muscles...

                  1. re: chowser

                    But, again, chicken and wild duck breasts differ in color--same muscles but ducks fly and have dark breast meat.

                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                      That would make sense since ducks fly long distances and chickens...don't do that much, really. Ducks have probably (and I'm hypothesizing from knowing more about people) developed their slow twitch muscles more from the flight. Would farm raised, non-flying ducks be more similar to chicken?

                      1. re: chowser

                        Hi Chowser, my understanding of slow twich versus fast twich is that they are diffrent types of muscle fibers and all muscles have some of each.

                        1. re: jdoyle2254

                          Yes, but you can work those specific types of fibers and make them larger, eg body builders with large muscles. Fast twitch build larger muscles fibers. The same duck that flies a lot will have larger slow twitch muscles fibers vs those who don't. Not many duck strength trainers but theoretically, if you made a duck do chest presses, it would develop its fast twitch muscles and have different chest meat than ones who fly long distances. And, muscles don't have equal numbers of fast and slow twitch--it depends on the muscle group and the person/animal.

                  2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                    The color isn't really from being exercised or not but, as Chowser pointed out, what type of work a muscle is doing. Duck breast muscle is tuned for endurance; long flights, using your muscles aerobically. Chicken breast muscle is tuned for sprints; quick bursts of flight to evade predators, using the muscles anaerobically. A muscle used aerobically will keep fat and oxygen nearby, hence the higher concentration of intramuscular fat (which makes it moist and tastey) and mygolobin (which provides its dark color). The leg muscles of human sprinters differ visibly from human marathoners, though not to the degree chickens & ducks do. This is due to the relative ratio of fast twitch to slow twitch fibers and the proportion of myoglobin, but they are both well exercised and "toned" athletes.

                    1. re: kmcarr

                      Your chickens sprint?

                      Actually, the skinny chickens I eat in remote rural areas around the globe get more exercise and have darker breast meat.

                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                        Your chickens sprint?
                        Yeah. In fact one just medaled in Bejing!

                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                          That would make sense because you can work your slow or fast twitch muscles more and they'll get bigger; slow twitch less so than fast twitch. Body builders are a prime example. They would have more white meat in their muscles while marathoners, though not that muscular, would have more dark meat. The skinny chickens you see are more like marathoners.

                      2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                        Sam, gotta disagree with you here. The color of the meat depends on the type of muscle fiber. There are two predominant types; Type I fibers utilize oxygen very efficiently, and can deliver sustained performance over a long period of time, while Type II fibers are largely anaerobic, so can deliver quick bursts of intense energy, but fatigue very quickly. This is true not only of chickens and ducks, but of humans; triathletes have a larger proportion of Type II muscles than sprinters. (So, to tag onto the cannibalism subthread, those who prefer white meat should avoid eating endurance athletes.)

                        You can see this in pheasant, which are nothing more than wild chickens. The breasts are much lighter than legs and thighs, even though the birds fly on a regular basis. It's just that they walk and run at sustained speeds for long periods of time, and fly for shorter, much more intense, bursts. Even if the amount of energy used is the same, even if the muscle tone is the same, the mix of muscle fiber types will make the breast meat lighter in color.

                        Modern industrial chickens may well be bred for a disproportionate amount of Type I muscle fiber in the breast so that they'll produce snowy-white flavorless meat for the consumer. But those same industrial chickens don't get much if any chance to walk around, either, and their slighty-less-flavorless leg muscles are still much darker.

                        1. re: alanbarnes

                          Ah! Missed this excellent response by you, alan. You stated it more elegantly and precisely than I!

                        2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                          That's not *quite* true. Or, to be more precise, it's a little misleading. The statement can be interpreted to mean that it is active exercise that changes the nature of the muscle. While that can cause small changes to the composition of the muscle, it won't override the developmental genetics of the animal.

                          Chowser has a more correct definition. It comes down to what kind of work the muscles have *evolved* to do, not what work they actually do. Ducks and geese are rare among fowl raised for consumption in that they are the only migratory birds that we eat in large numbers. They have breast muscles that have evolved for slow, sustained aerobic work. When raised for consumption, however, these birds do not fly much at all. They certainly aren't migrating and taking the farmer's investment with them.

                          This phenomenon is observed throughout the animal kingdom. Take tuna. They are one of the few species of fish that migrate very long distances that we eat. That sustained, aerobic work requires loads of slow twitch muscle fibers. That's why tuna flesh is so much darker that other fish.

                          Chowser also brings up a good question about why chickens would need fast twitch muscles in their breasts. I think the best way to approach it is to think more about why a bird would need slow twitch muscles in their breast. Really, only migratory birds need to sustain flight for hours at a time. Ducks and geese are the weirdos in the story. Chickens are just like their other brethren who engage only in relatively short bursts of flight.

                        3. Although apparently the curves of the human breast are purely for aesthetics and not for taste according to a recent bit of reading i was doing on cannibalism. (don't ask why.) Apparently the numerous glands there do not make for tasty eating.
                          Of course some to think of it, I don't ever remember being served up a delicious dish of cow udder either.....

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Firegoat

                            I think human breast meat would be the pectoral muscles, not the mammaries. Just a thought, albeit a morbid one lol

                            1. re: spellweaver16

                              Breasts are largely adipose tissue