Frozen meat

Meat can be defined as all parts of an animal that have been judged safe, suitable, and intended for human consumption.

Fresh meat refers to edible flesh from a slaughtered animal that has not gone through any preservation process other than freezing, chilling, quick freezing, or vacuum-wrapped in a controlled atmosphere.

Fresh meat is composed of 75% water, 19% protein, 2.5% fat, 1.6% nitrogen compounds, and 1.2% carbohydrates.

Yes, frozen meat weighs more than fresh meat. Meat has air pockets that contain air bubbles and water, which also get frozen.

This frozen air and ice make frozen meat theoretically heavier than fresh meat.

However, the extra weight, which could be as much as a 1/3, is water weight and myoglobin that most people mistake for blood.

So, frozen meat weighs more, but the difference is in the form of water and myoglobin.

Does frozen meat weigh more than thawed meat?

The weight of frozen meat consists of frozen air, ice, and the meat itself.

Whereas the weight of thawed meat does not include the weight of ice or frozen air.

This is because, in the thawing process, frozen air and ice melt.

This also leads to the shrinking of the meat and a reduction of its weight.

Although thawed meat is safe to consume, it's usually accompanied by a slight quality reduction.

Characteristics of fresh meat

Fresh Meat

The main fresh raw meat traits are color, texture, WHC, and amount of fat, namely subcutaneous fat, intermuscular fat, or intramuscular fat.

On the other hand, the top traits for eating quality cooked meat are tenderness, juiciness, flavor, and a nice aroma.

Properties of Meat

The chemical and physical properties of meat vary significantly depending on the breed, species, age, nutrition, sex, and animal training, as well as the anatomical positioning of the muscles in the animal's physique.

Generally, the muscles of an adult mammal consist mainly of 75% water and 19% protein together with 2.5% intramuscular fat, 1.2% carbohydrates, and 2.3% other substances.

Myoglobin concentrations determine whether meat is categorized as red or white.

This purplish protein contains heme, which only transports and stores oxygen in muscle cells but not in the blood.

When exposed to oxygen, it becomes Oxymyoglobin and that is what gives meat its red color. 

Nutritionally, meat has all the essential amino acids. It is high in protein, it’s a great source of vitamin B12, vitamin B6, zinc, phosphorus, selenium, choline, niacin, iron, and riboflavin.

Meat has no dietary fiber and is very low in carbohydrates. Its fat content depends on the animal species and breed. Game and wild animals such as deer have lower fat content than farm animals.

Types of meat

Meat is edible animal flesh and can be put into three main categories, namely; red meat, poultry, and seafood.

Red meat consists of livestock flesh such as beef, pork, and mutton, among others. Whereas poultry, also referred to as white meat, is meat from chicken, turkey, geese, and ducks, among others.

Seafood consists of flesh from fish, crustaceans such as shrimp, crabs, lobsters, and molluscs such as oysters, scallops, mussels, and clams.

What to inspect when buying meat

man checking meat

Check the meat color to ensure it’s the right one

The appropriate meat color is dependent on the meat type you are buying.

Safe to eat red meat ought to be dark in color and varies between red, purple, and brown when exposed to oxygen.

Game meat ought to be dark brown while pork ought to be light blushing pink.

Fresh poultry meat color ranges between yellow and blue-white depending on the poultry's diet.

Waft to smell the meat

Fresh meat has an aroma. It should not smell like rotting flesh nor should it be pungent.  A pungent smell is an indication that all is not well.

Visible meat fat

Red meat with white streaks and flecks of fat (marbling) evenly spread on the muscle will be tender and juicier.

Wagyu beef has fine marbling and is highly prized. It is renowned for its tenderness and flavor. Meats with fine marbling tend to be expensive.

Look out for clean cuts

Avoid jagged-edged meat. Good quality meat is well-butchered and its cuts are smooth and uniformly sized.

This is true, especially when buying poultry. Lower-grade poultry is hardly well-butchered and little care is put into joint and bone removal. Hence, if you loathe small bones in your chicken, go for higher grade cuts.

Keenly observe the meat surface

The surface of fresh meat is a little crusted with a pinkish look about it. A close observation of red meat reveals meat fibers, which indicate the toughness or tenderness of the meat.

Tough, highly flavored meat has coarse grains with numerous visible muscle fibers, which are best for slow and low cooking.

Observe the meat texture

Stay away from any meat that is sticky or slimy. Beef should be dry, firm, and dense. Its muscle fibers should be uniform and tightly compact.

Beware, low quality and poor handling of beef give it a falling-apart look. Poultry should also be dry and firm. Your palms stay dry upon contact with fresh meat.

When you press fresh meat with a finger, the pressure dent quickly vanishes and the meat returns to its original shape.

Examine the packaging

Any sign of damage or dirt on the packaging is indicative of the handling mannerisms. It's likely that the hands that handled it could have contaminated the contents.

Despite this, it is not directly indicative of the meat's quality. Damaged packaging is risky, though.

Verify the sell-by date

Best-before dates are more for quality than food safety. It is how the manufacturers communicate the end of the optimum freshness of a product, after which they will not be liable for quality reduction.

After the sell-by date, the food is still consumable but it's left to the consumer's judgment to determine freshness.

If you don't intend to cook immediately, buy meat with the latest sell-by-date or best-before date. That way you have a longer shelf life, especially if you store it in the fridge.

Take note of the use-by-date

The use-by-date indicates how close the meat is to getting spoiled. Always consume meat on or before the use-by date.

It's very risky to consume meat such as ground beef after its use-by date. This is because it is exposed to more handling during the processing than a piece of steak would, hence it’s prone to spoilage.

 Closely examine the storage

A slightly warm or dripping fridge is an indication that the gadget has technical issues, hence the possibility of your meat not being fresh is high. Take note of the freezer and fridge temperatures.

Consult your butcher

If unsure about the meat, consult your butcher. They have a wealth of knowledge they can furnish you with.

They can be candid with you and let you in on information the general clientele is not privy to.

Methods of meat preservation

meat preservation

Meat is a highly perishable item and when void of proper handling, can easily be unfit for human consumption.

There are various meat preservation methods intended to prolong its shelf life, protect it from microbial spoilage, maintain quality, improve flavor, ease transportation, and storage menace, among other factors.

Packaging

This protects meat products from microbial spoilage, texture change, discoloration, nutrient loss, and off-odor and off-flavor development.

Examples of packaging include active packaging (AP), modified atmosphere packaging (MAP), or vacuum packaging (VP).

Hydrodynamic pressure processing

This method uses shockwaves to tenderize meat from underwater detonation, which eventually creates pressure on vacuum packaged meat and drastically reduces microbes on meat.

Hydrostatic pressure processing

This non-thermal pasteurization process deactivates food enzymes and inhibits microorganisms from interfering with cell functions as a form of meat preservation.

Irradiation

This is also known as cold sterilization, which preserves meat by damaging the microbes' DNA and ionizing its waters. It is considered a bactericidal and is used for surface meat sterilization.

Using preservative agents

Preservatives conserve meat by retarding or inhibiting the growth of microorganisms. These can be subdivided into three; chemical, bio, and natural preservatives. Examples of natural preservatives include salt, sugar, lactoferrin, and spices such as ginger, garlic, and mustard seed, among others. Examples of chemical preservatives include sulfites, nitrites, acetic acid, sorbate and acetate, phosphates, and others. Bio-preservative examples include nisin, chitosan, and lysozyme.

Pickling and fermentation

These are traditional biological and inexpensive meat preservation methods. In pickling, meat is preserved in containers by immersing it in brine. This high concentration of spices and salt barricades the meat from undesirable bacteria and pathogens. Meanwhile, fermentation preserves the meat while enhancing the flavor using lactobacillus (probiotics), which is a type of good bacteria also found in the human gut.

Asepsis

This meat preservation method involves maintaining aseptic conditions during slaughtering and handling of meat to prevent microbial contamination. A good example is using sterile slaughtering tools, and spraying animals using water before slaughtering them to get rid of germs and dirt.

Using Spices

This enhances flavor and preserves the meat by acting as antioxidants and can be added during smoking, cooking, or curing. Examples of spices include black pepper, garlic, cloves, cinnamon, anise, and allspice, among others.

Curing

It’s an old-school method that preserves meat by rubbing it with salt or soaking it in brine composed of nitrites, nitrates, salts, and sugar.

Thermal methods

This type of meat preservation uses various forms of heat sterilization, namely; dehydration by sun-drying or by mechanically passing hot air with controlled humidity, heating meat above 100°C, canning, cold smoking, hot smoking, and smoke roasting.

Non-thermal methods

This meat preservation method keeps the meat's original characteristics and prevents the growth of microbes and drastically slows down enzymatic reactions. Non-thermal methods include chilling, freezing, and freeze-drying meat.

What is processed meat?

processed meat

Any meat that has been preserved through curing, smoking, salting, or adding any kind of chemical preservatives to modify its taste or extend its shelf life can be termed processed meat. Examples of meat that fall into the category of processed meats include;

  • Hot dogs

  • Bratwurst

  • Beef jerky

  • Corned beef

  • Ham-smoked or cured

  • Salami

  • Package lunch meat

  • Pastrami

  • Pepperoni

  • Sausage

  • Bacon

  • Deli meats - including turkey and roast beef

Are unprocessed meats unhealthy?

Consuming too much processed meat is bad for your health. The World Health Organization has classified processed meats, including bacon, ham, frankfurts, and salami as a Group 1 carcinogen, that is, they are known to cause cancer.

Eating processed meat greatly increases your risk of various cancers, including stomach and bowel cancers as well as diabetes and heart diseases.

What is game meat?

Game meat includes everything from venison to pheasant to wild boar meat. Game meat is typically not found in a grocery store but may be found in specialty meat markets.

It is quite lean, especially because it's obtained from the wild and the animals eat varied and natural diets, unlike farmed animals. Game meats are exotic and among the more costly options.

They are best for braising due to the tough muscle structures.

Meat is composed of protein, vitamins B12, Iron, water, amino acids, fats, fatty acids and carbohydrates, and bioactive components.

It is loaded with iron and Vitamin B12, which are rare in vegetarian diets. All essential amino acids are found in meat.

The next time you go shopping, insist on fresh meat and remember that frozen meat weighs more than fresh meat.