Turkey Day is almost here, and you might be asking yourself about the difference between dark and white meat. If so, you’ve come to the right place.
White meat of a turkey or chicken comes from around the breast, while dark meat is concentrated around the legs. The color of your meat is basically due to the concentration of myoglobin, a protein that delivers oxygen to muscles that need sustained energy.
— Alton Brown (@altonbrown) November 23, 2015
Dark meat gets its reddish color from myoglobin and the blood vessels that the protein moves through. Most of those muscles are concentrated around the legs, rather than the breasts, because turkeys travel more often by foot, so they require more myoglobin to muscles that help the birds run. A turkey’s breast muscles are mostly used for immediate, quick movements, like when escaping a predator. These are called “fast-twitch” muscles.
Dark meat usually has a stronger flavor compared to white meat, due to the various chemicals, proteins and fats that build on the muscle tissue, according to the Kitchn. White meat usually finishes cooking first because it’s thinner and more tender, which means it’s also more exposed to the oven’s heat.
— BuzzFeed Health (@BuzzFeedHealth) November 24, 2015
Now, you’re probably wondering: Is dark or white meat healthier? Calorically speaking, white turkey breast meat is considered healthier than dark meat, according to Eating Well. Choosing white meat as opposed to dark meat will save you about 45 calories and 6 grams of saturated fat. Both are also good sources of protein, though dark meat's not quite as protein-rich.
Dark meat, however, does have a few nutritional advantages over white meat. It generally carries 11 percent of the daily value of iron, whereas white meat has about 7 percent per serving. Dark meats also tend to contain greater levels of zinc, riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, vitamins B6 and B12 and amino acids.