How to read meat labels to pick the best cuts?

Meat shopping in a supermarket revolves around reading meat labels. With so many options, here is a guide to what all the meat label mean. Read on to find out the how to pick the most succulent ones.

A guide to reading the fine print on meat labels
With so much information on meat labels, how do you know what’s in the fine print?

Visit the supermarket today and you will be confronted with a variety of raw meats – from chicken to fish, duck, mutton, pork, beef and even lamb.

Decide on the type and cut. Soon, you will realise that the origin of the produce, and the way animals were fed or bred affects its cost.

Here is an Aerinlé checklist for your next grocery run:

1) Red or white?

White meat has a reputation for being the healthier choice. Although a recent study linked regular consumption of red meat (participants ate mostly pork) to kidney failure, experts said that eating it in moderation does no harm.

“You don’t have to avoid it. Just make sure red meat is not the single meat item at every meal,” Professor Koh Woon Puay from the NUS Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, told The Straits Times.

We recommend looking around for recipes and choosing one that you fancy.

Just try to avoid processed meats. Last year, the World Health Organisation said that eating these could cause colorectal cancer.

2) Fresh from the butcher or frozen?

Freezing food does not deplete its nutrients. In fact, the low temperature preserves vitamins and minerals for longer. This gives it a lengthier shelf life than meat bought fresh from the butcher.

What this boils down to is taste. During the freezing process, ice crystals form and these affect the cell membranes of meat.

According to The Daily Mail, white meat has a higher water content, so more crystals form when it is frozen. Its lower fat content also results in more ice crystals.

So, if a piece of frozen chicken breast tastes different from the usual when cooked, you know why.

There is no harm in buying red meat – such as a packet of juicy steaks – that has been frozen. You probably will not be able to tell the difference after it’s cooked.


3) Grass- or grain-fed?

Getting the grass-fed variety costs more. The Wall Street Journal reported that people typically pay 30 to 80 per cent more for grass-fed beef.

Simply put, the cow in question has roamed pastures in its lifetime, instead of being reared in a factory.

This results in meat that is healthier. A 3.5-ounce serving of grass-fed beef has 2.4g of fat. In contrast, the same serving of conventional beef contains 16.3g of fat.

4) Is organic meat worth the investment?

Be prepared to pay a premium for the organic tag. The US Department of Agriculture has strict guidelines for such produce. Animals have to be allowed to roam outdoors. Farms and their feed have to be certified organic too.

Plus, the stamp guarantees that no growth hormones and antibiotics were involved.

Make sure to check that the same standards apply for the meat you’re purchasing. This is because different organic certifications have a range of quality benchmarks.

You may like to read about the truth behind organic labels in Singapore here.

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