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"What exactly makes light veal turn into dark beef?"

Hi there.
Reading about the different flavors of different types of meat brings up an old question of mine about the different colors you find in meat: What exactly makes light veal turn into dark beef? Is the change in color also responsible for the change in flavor, or are these two completely independent issues?

Thanks in advance and keep up your nice cooking site!
—Submitted by Klaus Bendrat
Hamburg, Germany


Still have more questions? You'll find more answers in our archived monthly feature articles by the Inquisitive Cooks.

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Hello Klaus.
Here we are with the second of your good questions.

Raw beef is colored primarily by a pigment called myoglobin. The function of myoglobin in meat is to hold oxygen in the muscles to power muscle contractions. The muscles that are used most are deeper in color as they require more oxygen than muscles that are seldom used. This is explained more thoroughly at "What Gives Meat Its Color?"

Veal comes from animals that are too young to accumulate much pigment. Milk-fed veal is prized by some for its creamy color. Other cooks prefer the slightly older grain-fed veal, which varies in color from light pink to light red, because they feel it has more flavor.

The question you raise about flavor is an interesting one. There's no doubt that along with the accumulation of color comes the development of flavor. However, the flavor doesn't come primarily from color. Rather, flavor is created as muscles develop and fat accumulates. To read more about the ways in which flavor develops, see the October 7 Weekly Question, "How does meat get its flavor?" for information about genetics, aging, and, of course, the influence of the cook.

Thanks for your continued interest in the site.
Best wishes,
Anne and Sue




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