Meat Market Musings: Why Do We Prefer White or Dark Meat?

Cookthink.comThere is a meat market by my apartment that I love to frequent (and yes, I mean a market for meat, not for singles). The place has just about everything: roasting hens, rack of lamb, affordable filet mignon, pork butt and even rabbit. And then there are also the basics which I stock up on and freeze: steak, ground pork, chicken breast and pork chops.

One time, I was looking at chicken thighs, bone-in and skin-on. While I was choosing a pack, an older lady next to me commented, “Those are fantastic.  That’s a great choice!” Imagine my confusion as I tried to figure out what made the meat so “fantastic.” It wasn't a unique brand or a rare item in markets, so why was it so special?

Then I realized: she was white.

Okay, I’m not trying to be racist, but from what I’ve seen, white Americans tend to prefer white meat over dark meat. Even when it comes to wings, boneless wings are often featured next to bone-in wings for those who prefer white meat (and don’t want the hassle of bones).  I believe the lady at some point realized that she liked dark meat and wanted to share her opinion with me, just in case I was a white meat eater who was trying out dark meat.

If this is the first time you're hearing of this trend, take a look at this discussion thread on white versus dark meat preferences.  Obviously, not everyone agrees, but these commentaries accurately describe the trends I’ve seen among friends, coworkers and menus.

Consider this: white meat is generally viewed as a healthier choice in the U.S. because it’s lean, but most Asians I know like fat in meat because the taste is richer. If you frequently visit Chinese restaurants, you may notice that the dark meat is the first to go whenever a whole chicken is served, especially if the white meat parts look dry. Also, white meat is more expensive per pound than dark meat in the large supermarkets. The reverse is true in Asian markets (at least in the ones I go to).

I don’t actually have an opinion on whether this discrepancy in tastes is a good thing or not, as long as no one hates on each other for what the other person likes. It’s normal for each culture to favor certain foods over another, and it’s always interesting when I learn which ingredients a culture or country uses a lot.

And if you were wondering, I love both white and dark meat, and I’m Chinese American. It’s just a matter of whether the meat is cooked well.

Photo from Cookthink