When you visit the butcher, you may wonder what type of pork to purchase for your lunch or dinner, or perhaps even a mid-afternoon barbecue with friends. As you examine what is on sale, you may note that specific cuts of pork have what appears to be discoloration. Now you wonder whether pork loin does, in fact, have light and dark meat.
Pork loin has a light and dark meat, but this must not be confused with white and red meat. The variation in color in pork loin stems from the different forms of myoglobin that produce differing colors. The cause for the change occurs for various reasons, such as pH.
So now you know that there are indeed two different colors to a pork loin, The first part is a section that almost appears to be white meat, and then there is the darker section which, more often than not, is smaller than the lighter part.
Now we have established that there are both light and dark meats in pork loin. Let’s look at the why and unpack the mystery behind it.
The Light And Dark Meat Of Pork Loin
Pork is often referred to as “the other white meat” as though it is in the same category as chicken and fish. But this is not the case; instead, pork is considered and is technically classified as red meat.
This misconception arose from marketing campaigns that tried selling pork as a healthier option than beef.
They attempted to do this because many people believed that pork was a fatty protein and one to be avoided. Although there are fatty cuts of pork, the meat is still a healthy and relatively common option for many people these days.
Depending on how you cook your pork, you have probably found that, for the most part, it is lighter in color once cooked.
This is due to the myoglobin (which pork has a larger quantity of than authentic white meats), which is responsible for the red coloration in meats, being a water-soluble protein.
This ultimately means that when meat is exposed to heat, i.e., cooked, it loses moisture and the resultant chemical reaction causes the meat to lighten.
If the pork is darker, on the whole, or in a section, it indicates that the cut of meat is retaining more moisture than others or in that particular section than the lighter parts. So, for example, if you purchase pale pink pork, you can instantly tell that it contains less moisture.
Although it will still taste good, darker pork will usually be juicier and ultimately more flavorful, even after the cooking or barbecuing process.
When you buy a pork loin roast, you will find a discrepancy in the uniformity of the coloration. This usually indicates that the loin was cut closer to the shoulder, where the meat tends to be darker and does contain more fat.
When preparing a pork roast of this kind, pay close attention to the differences in color in the different parts of the pork and note how the dark meat compares to the light. Most likely, you should find that the darker sections are more flavorsome and juicier than their light counterparts which will probably be on the drier side.
Is It Safe To Eat The Dark Sections Of Pork?
Generally, as a rule of thumb, when it comes to pork, you want to look for light pink cuts as discoloration or a darkened hue could be signs that the meat is spoiled. However, while the color can indicate whether the meat has been spoilt, it is not always the case, as seen in the pork loin.
Despite what you might have heard about pork, the dark pink pork section usually has nothing wrong with it. When examining a pork loin with light and dark shades, the color differences have little to nothing to do with the meat’s quality.
Instead, in these cases, you will find that the darker color represents that the pork holds more moisture.
As we have seen, myoglobin has a significant role in the meat color, and if the pork is a darker pink, then it indicates superior moisture-retention in that part of the cut. However, unlike a roast, pork loin chops may hold a different story, so we recommend reading on to the next section, which describes the potential dangers of darkened meat.
How Does One Tell If Pork Has Gone Bad?
To tell if your pork is OK to eat, the first sign will usually be when you bought it and where it was purchased from. For example, if you got it recently and know that the butcher you purchased it from only sells top-quality meat, then the pork will have a light to dark gray pink hue, and there should be no strange smell.
The meat should be moist, especially in the darker portions of the flesh. However, if it has a slimy texture and a sour and off-putting odor, you should reconsider even trying to cook it as it is likely already spoilt and is unfit for consumption.
Additionally, if the cut was a lighter pink when you bought it and it darkened drastically, it would be wise not to eat it.
The PH Levels May Affect The Coloration Of Pork
When you examine your pork loin and note the darker section, one thing that is unlikely to come to mind is the pH level of the meat.
However, it has been discovered that pork darker in hue tends to have a higher pH than that of light pink. A higher pH indicates less acid, which is a good thing.
Meat with a higher pH level is generally more tender and flavorsome. It has, as mentioned, the ability to retain moisture more efficiently; this resultantly contributes to its overall juiciness.
In contrast, a lower pH, typically found in lighter meat, means there is a higher acidic level; this causes the meat to be lighter and translates into less flavor.
Darker coloration in pork loin is not generally a sign of spoilt or inferior meat, but rather that the cut of pork holds more significant moisture and is likely to contain more flavor than the lighter portions of the cut.
So when shopping for pork loins, you can now confidently and in an informed manner go about selecting the best cut choice for you and your friends and family to enjoy.