That Red Juice In Your Meat Isn’t Blood?
Those red and pink liquids in the meat package you recently purchased from your local grocer sure look an awful lot like blood. The juices can also be seen sizzling and oozing out from the meat as it’s being cooked. It can make some people extremely squeamish.
In rare cases, individuals who are susceptible to vasovagal syncope (fainting from the sight of blood) have had fainting spells due to the sight of a particularly messy batch of meats. It’s no wonder those who are extremely squeamish can swear off meat all together and become a vegetarian.
Do those individuals have a good reason to react that way? Are those red colored juices actually animal blood?
Close, But No Cigar
Nope! Those juices are definitely not blood. They are slightly related, however. Those juices are actually myoglobin and sarcoplasm. Both are proteins found in found in the muscle tissue of most vertebrates and in almost all mammals. They’re related to hemoglobin, which is the iron and oxygen-binding protein in blood. However, the only time myoglobin is found in the bloodstream is when it is released following a deep muscle injury.
Myoglobin is what gives meat its dark red color pigment. Meat that is cooked well done is dark brown on the outside (and grey on the inside) because the iron atom is now in the +3 oxidation state, having lost its electron, and is now coordinated by a water molecule.
Raw meat that is treated with nitrates and then packed & stored in a carbon monoxide atmosphere will take on a bright pink color, which is what many customers usually associate with “fresh” meat. Unfortunately, this is a deceptive marketing practice as it only makes the meat look fresh. The artificially-induced pink color can remain in the meat for a very long time, reportedly up to one full year.
How To Tell If Beef is Fresh
The easiest way to tell if meat is fresh is to always check the dates on the packages. This gives you a general idea about the meat’s freshness. For example, beef that is fresh will have a moist texture. If it’s slimy or sticky, it’s beginning to spoil (or already has spoiled). Grey portions indicate the meat is in the process of spoiling, or has been frozen or refrigerated too long. Also, be sure to smell the meat – if you smell a nutty or cardboard-like smell, the beef is spoiled.