The taste of meat and myoglobin

Myoglobin is an oxygen binding protein found in vertebrate muscle tissues that imparts a pink color to fresh meats (though this can be produced through a controversial treatment using carbon monoxide). The pinkness or darkness of meat is associated with muscles involved in sustained activity (e.g, legs)–these muscles require more oxygen to fuel activity and, therefore, are enriched with blood (and myoglobin). Short intense bursts of activity do not require such enrichment and tend to be light or white in color. The richer taste that some prefer in darker meats derives from the more intense package of nutrients (e.g., zinc, B vitamins etc) associated with tissues containing larger amounts of myoglobin. But, a huge portion of the eating experience is derived from olfaction and yet myoglobin doesn’t seem to impart much odor to the meat…


Published by Kara C. Hoover

I am a bioanthropologist living in Alaska studying human olfactory variation and prehistoric human health and diet.

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