Thursday, May 16, 2013

White Meat or Dark Meat?

I like to notice cultural references that fade from importance. Often the change is not obvious for years. This is the case with the old question “White meat or dark meat?” which was an important part of the conversation in the 1980s. For those born since then, the question refers to preferences in turkey and chicken. I realize it doesn’t necessarily sound like a food question, but that is actually what it was about. There was a theory, which came to prominence about 1982, that eating meat with a lower fat content would help a person avoid heart disease and possibly a couple of other common diseases and syndromes. People who subscribed to this theory would self-righteously select the white meat from turkey and chicken. On occasion they would lecture their family members on how they ought to be eating healthier.

It is hard to say when this idea and question faded from importance. It happened so slowly you couldn’t possibly pin it to a specific year. Regardless, the cultural view has shifted, and the consensus now is that there is really not much difference between white meat and dark meat. They are not even all that different in fat content, as it turns out. And the science behind low-fat meat was a mistake, stemming from a misinterpretation of data in a 1970s research article. The actual answer for better health was not eating less high-fat meat, but eating less meat in general. There are still culinary reasons to prefer white meat or dark meat, but somehow the question has shed most of the significance it held a generation ago.