Quick Recipes and Easy

Is Pink Better? It May Not Be

You are plotting a terrific barbecue this weekend and fresh sirloins on the grill are on your menu. Pictures yourself going to the grocery store and finding the most gorgeous, pink, juicy cuts of meat… Does that mean they are fresh? Not necessarily… It has come to the attention of the FDA that a lot of local grocery stores are now treating their meats with carbon monoxide to keep their meat looking fresher longer. This debate is sizzling within Congress and the FDA nearly as hot as a grill on a sweltering summer day.

The public assumption is that the pinker the meat is, the fresher the cut and this is absolutely untrue. This human assumption is what grocery stores are counting on to increase their lackluster meat sales. Following such “meat scares” as mad cow disease and the avian flu in chickens which have decreased meat sales throughout the United States, the only way that these butchers have to combat the lack of sales is to increase the shelf life of the meat that is cut. It is a fact that meat that has been cut will start to turn brown as it starts to “go terrible”. The use of carbon monoxide turns the meat a bright pink which can last up to 10 days at 50 degrees. Does this mean that the meat is still excellent? Absolutely not! But that isn’t what the American Meat Institute is saying. But, the FDA and a number of other consumer groups do not feel that enough testing has been done to verify its safety.

Many consumer groups are pushing a bill in Congress to ban carbon monoxide treatment to meat until more FDA testing has been done. In the meantime, there are a number of grocery chains that refuse to use carbon monoxide treated meat. These stores include Wal-Mart, Acme, Food Lion, SuperFresh, Kroger, Publix, Stop & Shop, A&P, Wegmans and Whole Foods.

During my younger years, I really knew a person who worked in a butcher shop and learned much more than I really wanted to know about beef liver, chicken necks and other meats… So, I feel that there is a real need to dispel the American perception of fresh meat. When your meat (such as a beef chuck roll or sirloin tip) arrives at your butcher, the meat itself is not pink nor is it brown. It’s more of a dark reddish color and extremely juicy (bloody). Once the package of meat is open, the first cuts are the same dark red color. Once air hits the meat, primarily the natural carbon monoxide that is found in your breathing air, the meat starts to turn the common pink color we are used to.

This process normally takes approximately twelve hours. Your meat is packaged in plastic wrap and after a twelve hour period starts to turn the brownish color that is associated with meat “turning terrible”. Does this mean the meat is terrible? Maybe… but most likely not. Sometimes, simply the fluorescent lighting that is commonly used in grocery stores will cause discoloration in the meat. The best way to check is by leaning the package over and checking the color of the “juice”. The “juice” should be bright red and not dark brown. In summary, the freshest cuts of meat will be dark red in color with very bright blood and a piece of meat that isn’t fresh will be grayish brown in color and the blood will be a brownish red.

While shopping for your fantastic sirloin steak this weekend, be sure to question your local butcher if the meat that they are selling is treated or not. Pleased Grilling!

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