Meat marbling

Meat marbling

Meat marbling and all to know about it

Ever seen those little white lines that look like marble in meat and found yourself wondering why it’s there? Also, what does it do to the meat? Read below to see the answer to these and other questions about marbling.

What is marbling in meat?

Meat marbling refers to the white flecks of intramuscular fat in meat. In basic terms: It is the streaks of fat that you see in lean sections or muscles of meat. Although also present in other meat types, it is mostly seen in red meat. Why do they call it marbling? Due to its appearance that is similar to marble slabs deemed its name marbling. It is important to note that this is not the inter-muscular fat, which is located between the muscles and usually gets trimmed off, but refers to the fat inside the meat fibers.

If marbling is fat, then is it healthy?

The type of fat that is referred to as marbling, is unsaturated fat. This is the healthy type of fat you want to eat more of. Due to the fact that there is more unsaturated fat, this leaves less space for saturated fatty acids and trans-fatty acids. Marbled meat also contains oleic acid, which is found in olive oil. Therefore, briefly stated, marbling in meat is good for you.

How does the marbling affect the meat?

Don’t worry, it’s actually good if you see marbling. Marbling is known for adding flavour to the meat. It also affects the juiciness, texture and tenderness of the meat. How so you ask? The presence of fat makes the meat easier to chew, as it is softer and has less muscle fibre and collagen. Think of a gumball. The best flavour is in the beginning. The same is true for meat with marbling; you chew less and therefore the flavour gets released faster. Due to the higher fat content in marbled meat, it also tastes sweeter and reduces the acidic aftertaste. Lastly, marbling is also used as a quality check for a cut of beef.

What affects the marbling?

  • Breed
    Why does the breed affect the marbling in the meat? This is because different breeds of cattle metabolise their food differently, hence the variance in meat. The breed of the cattle also contributes to the ratio of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids.
  • Feed
    What also makes a difference in marbling is how and what the cattle are fed. Marbling is fat and for that reason, the cattle would be fed something that could fatten them. In simple terms, it’s much more difficult to get fat on grass than grain. Therefore, meat that comes from grain-fed cattle have a higher level of marbling, whereas meat from grass-fed cattle tend to have less marbling.
  • Muscle use
    You know when you haven’t been to the gym in a while and you notice some extra fat? Yeah, it’s like that with cattle too. The less the muscle gets worked, the more fat is present and thus results in the cuts with the most marbling.
  • Age
    One can say that marbling comes with age. Intramuscular fat, the fat known as marbling, is developed last when cattle grow. Therefore, if the animal is too young, no marbling will be displayed.
  • Cut
    Some cuts of beef naturally have more marbling than others. We have seen that less worked cuts, like the loin, show a generous amount of marbling. Whereas cuts with finer muscle structures, such as tenderloin, have less marbling present.

Are there different types of marbling?

Yes, there are 3 different general categories of meat marbling: Fine Marbling, Medium Marbling and Coarse Marbling. Take a look below at the differences:

  • Fine marbling
    The best type of marbling, hence the one you want. This is normally found in lean muscles that have a high frequency of thin flecks of fat, which are evenly distributed throughout the meat. Due to the evenly distributed smaller pieces of fat, it melts quickly during cooking. As a result, you have juicy and tender meat.
  • Medium marbling
    Meat with larger and less evenly distributed flecks of fat fall into this category. It is an inferior form of marbling. With the presence of the larger pieces of fat, it takes longer to liquefy and is therefore not as suitable for medium rare preparation. Furthermore, the uneven distribution of fat could also lead to some areas being juicy, while other areas might already be cooked and dry.
  • Coarse marbling
    This is the one you want to steer clear of. It is noticeable by large uneven flecks of fat. The issues medium marbling brings, are intensified with coarse marbling.

Do we want marbled meat?

From our side, in the appropriate cuts, that would be a resounding yes. It adds juiciness to the meat. Also, as the fat melts into the meat, it therefore keeps the natural juices while cooking, preventing the meat from becoming dry. Marbling also adds tenderness, resulting in a nice soft bite of meat. Lastly, it also contains healthy fat and acids which could aid in the reduced risk of coronary heart disease.

Putting it plainly, when it comes to cuts of meat that has marbling, the more marbling, the better the cut of meat. Now you also know what to look out for when you add your favourite cut to your online shopping cart. Ensuring you have a melt-in-your-mouth piece of meat.

FAQs summary

What does marbling mean in meat?

Meat marbling refers to the white flecks of intramuscular fat in meat. In basic terms: It is the streaks of fat that you see in lean sections or muscles of meat. Although also present in other meat types, it is mostly seen in red meat.

Is meat marbling good for you?

The type of fat that is referred to as marbling, is unsaturated fat. This is the healthy type of fat you want to eat more of. Due to the fact that there is more unsaturated fat, this leaves less space for saturated fatty acids and trans-fatty acids.

Does marbling affect tenderness meat?

Marbling is known for adding flavour to the meat. It also affects the juiciness, texture and tenderness of the meat. As the fat melts into the meat, it therefore keeps the natural juices while cooking, preventing the meat from becoming dry.

What causes marbling in meat?

Breed, Feed, Muscle use, Age and cut.

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