Despite being a staple in many diets and an excellent protein source and important nutrients, meat is a highly controversial food item.
While some society segments believe that eating meat is unethical and must be avoided at all costs, others believe that consuming meat regularly is essential in maintaining overall health.
Before we delve more deeply into the nutritional value of meat and its categories, let’s first examine the different kinds of dietary lifestyles.
- 1 Vegan vs. Omnivore: Decoding The Diets
- 2 Different Types of Meat
- 3 The Stability & Shelf Life of Meat
- 4 5 Ways to Preserve Meat
- 5 How to Thaw Meat
Vegan vs. Omnivore: Decoding The Diets
Some of the most common dietary preferences include plant-based diet, whole-food plant-based diet, vegan diet, vegetarian diet, and omnivore diet.
Here’s a look at 2 of these diets placed on opposite ends of the dietary spectrum.
A completely plant-based diet, veganism excludes all animal products and consumption of meat (even fish, shellfish, and insects), eggs, and dairy.
People who follow veganism tend to alter their lifestyle choices to avoid actions that bring harm or suffering to animals.
Despite restricting all products derived wholly or partly from animals, a vegan diet can still be nutritious as it includes all kinds of fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, seeds, beans, and pulses.
The most common diet among humans, an omnivore diet, includes a mix of both plant and animal foods.
A well-balanced omnivore diet consists of foods from all 5 major food groups, i.e., dairy, protein-rich foods, fruits, vegetables, and grains.
Regular meat consumption is associated with several health benefits for muscle and bone health, appetite, metabolism, iron absorption, etc.
But to avail of its optimum health benefits, one must be aware of how to consume and how to preserve meat in the healthiest way possible.
Different Types of Meat
Based on the animal source and method of preparation, meat can be classified into the following categories:
Obtained from mammals, red meat includes beef (cattle), pork (pigs and hogs), lamb, veal (calves), goat, game, such as bison, elk, and venison (deer).
As compared to white meat, it contains more iron-rich protein myoglobin in its tissue.
Lighter in color compared to red meat, while the meat is obtained from birds and small game such as chicken, turkey, duck, goose, and wild birds like quail and pheasant.
When the meat is modified through an external process such as salting, curing, smoking, drying, etc., for preservation purposes or enhancing its flavor, it becomes processed meat.
Common examples include hot dogs, sausage, bacon, jerky, luncheon meats such as bologna, salami, and pastrami.
Once you know the different kinds of meats available in the market, you can make more informed choices based on your personal nutritional needs and preferences.
If you want to opt for a healthier alternative, it is best to stay away from processed meat varieties. You can also include organ meats in your diet as they have high nutritional value.
High-heat cooking methods such as grilling, barbecue, etc., can harm. It becomes processed meat.
If you are still using a high-heat method for cooking meat, ensure that you wipe away the dripping instantly and avoid charring or overcooking it.
The Stability & Shelf Life of Meat
Even though meat is a nutritious and protein-rich food, it is highly perishable and has a short shelf life.
It becomes processed meat until and unless preservation methods are employed. A large number of factors can be responsible for spoilage of meat.
Depending on the type of meat, how it is procured, whether it is cooked or not, and how it is stored, shelf life and the best method of preserving meat vary.
While fresh, ground beef must be consumed within 2 days of purchase, smoked fish can remain fresh up to 14 days.
Once the meat is spoiled and it remains untreated, then it can become unappetizing, infectious, and in some cases, even poisonous.
Due to their high moisture content and neutral pH, meat and meat products provide the perfect microbial growth environment.
Regardless of the type of meat, some of the most common causes due to which meat can go bad are as follows:
- Breakdown of fats and proteins
- Spoilage by microbial organisms like bacteria, molds, and yeast
- Oxidative rancidity
Consuming spoilt meat can have several adverse health effects.
If you are worried about the quality of meat and whether it is edible or not, here are a few signs and symptoms that can help you decide.
- Sticky or slimy surface
- Discoloration on meat
- Change in taste or odor
But if you want to prevent the meat from going bad, then there are several ways to preserve meat to increase its shelf life.
Most of these processes are quite simple and can be easily done at home. Not only this, some methods to preserve meat have the additional benefit of enhancing its taste and flavor.
Want to know more about how to preserve meat?
Here’s an extensive guide for you.
5 Ways to Preserve Meat
If proper hygiene is maintained during the production, processing, preservation, and meat storage, it can remain edible for long durations of time.
Using the right technique, meat can be preserved safely, not just for a few days but for several months. In some cases, it can also be preserved for a few years.
However, certain factors like the type of meat and its processing come into play.
Not sure about how to preserve meat to ensure it lasts longer and retains the nutritional content?
Here are 5 simple and effective ways to preserve meat.
One of the easiest ways to preserve meat is to freeze meat at home in the freezer compartment attached to your refrigerator or even use a stand-alone freezer or cooler.
While uncooked meat such as chops and steaks can be preserved for 4-12 months by freezing, cooked meat can be stored for just 2-3 months.
Start by cutting meat into smaller pieces and removing the bones. Bones in meat take excess space and can also cause freezer burn.
Then wrap the meat properly using a plastic bag or heavy-duty aluminum foil, especially for freezer use. After that, use a home vacuum sealer to remove any air from the packaging.
Place this packaged meat in an air-tight container and store it in the freezer for a few months. Ensure that your freezer temperature remains at -18 °C (0 °F)) or below at all times.
A traditional meat preservation method, smoking has been around for centuries.
One of the distinct advantages of smoking meat is that it enhances the flavor of meat, and many people use this technique to preserve meat and make it more flavourful.
If done properly, smoked meat can last up to one year in the refrigerator.
Start by soaking wood chips in water for an entire day and then place those wood chips in a smoke box. After that, set the smoker temperature per your preference and start spreading the meat over the rack.
Make sure you place the meat pieces directly above the smoke and keep cooking it until you get the right temperature. As different types of meats are cooked at different temperatures. You will have to work accordingly.
If needed, you can add more smoke chips to the smoker to ensure that the meat is smoked properly. To test, bend the meat, and if it starts cracking, then you can be sure that it is ready and dry.
Freeze this smoked meat in a vacuum-sealed bag and use it when needed.
Curing (or Salting)
One of the oldest known meat preservation methods, curing or salting as it is sometimes called, can be used quite effectively for most types of meat.
To cure meat, start by removing as much salt as possible. Then rub it with salt completely. If you want, you can use other spices as well.
Keep this salt-covered meat in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight for at least 7 days. After that, you can rinse off the salt and other spices using water and wrap the meat in a clean cloth.
This meat can be stored in a cool and dry place, and it will remain fresh for at least 2 or 3 months.
Another easy way to preserve meat is through dehydration. Depending on your resources, you can pick the best way to dehydrate the meat.
While traditionally, people dehydrated meat by merely drying it in direct sunlight, now modern appliances such as solar dehydrators and electronic dehydrators are available.
But if you want to know how to preserve meat at home, you can do it using an oven by following the steps below.
Start by cutting meat into narrow strips and boil the meat strips in a pot of hot water for 3-5 minutes. This boiling process ensures that the meat does not have any bacteria.
After that, remove the water and drain the meat until it is scorched. Then, bake the meat strips in an oven for 8-12 hours on the lowest temperature setting.
Once the meat is dehydrated, you can store it in an air-tight container. Dehydrated meat can last for 1 or 2 months without refrigeration.
Another traditional meat preservation method, brining meat properly, can make it last for years. Brined meat is also more flavourful, and the simple process does not require any fancy kitchen equipment.
First, to brine meat, prepare a mixture using salt, brown sugar, and water. Once this mixture is ready, you can soak the meat in it and store it in a cool, dry place for a month or longer.
The salt preserves the meat from bacteria, and water’s presence keeps it moist and tender. You can continue to store this brined meat at a cool and dry place for several months.
Apart from these popular meat preservation methods, other processes such as canning, dry freezing, storing in lard, etc., can also be tried.
Now that you know not just 1 but so many ways to preserve meat, you can make it last through several months.
Some traditional meat preservation processes such as brining and curing do not even require refrigeration.
So, if you can’t store meat in your refrigerator because of frequent power cuts, then opting for a traditional meat preservation method is the best.
If you follow a meat preservation method properly, you can be sure that it is safe to use and consume.
These meat preservation methods at home are also healthier than processed meat with artificial preservatives to increase shelf life.
These artificial preservatives can reduce the overall health benefit of consuming meat by decreasing its nutritional value.
Another advantage of preserving meat at home is that you won’t have to rush to the market for any last-minute dinner plans.
You can simply take out the preserved meat and prepare a sumptuous feast.
How to Thaw Meat
If the meat preservation method you picked requires you to store the meat pieces in the freezer or refrigerator, you must know how to defrost the meat properly.
Meat can be thawed safely using any of the following methods:
The slowest process, refrigerator thawing, can take anywhere between 1-7 days, depending on the size and type of meat.
If you want to cook your meat instantly, you opt for the microwave thawing method as this process can significantly raise the temperature of certain parts of meat.
Another quick thawing method, this one requires you to place the meat in a plastic bag directly under cool running water.
While you can choose any of these thawing methods per your requirement and resources, keep in mind that meat thawed with cold water or microwave can be refrozen again.
So, if there is a chance that you might want to refreeze some parts of the meat again, then it is best to thaw it in the refrigerator.