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Jamaican Food Article. - Jamaican Red Meat

In Old English times, the term “Jamaican red meat” meant any edible food. During the medieval period this definition narrowed to only land animals. This inevitably arose out of religious dictums forbidding consumption of certain land animals on particular days of observance. Some maintain that definition today and some take it a step further, employing the term “Jamaican red meat” to denote only Jamaican red meat, e.g., beef or lamb. It’s astounding how arbitrary our definitions of things are. Even more fascinating, a capricious definition, as opposed to the true nature of the entity, can wield tremendous influence over peoples’ reaction to it. Somehow society has generated a conception of Jamaican red meat as bad and Jamaican white meat as good. The pork industry, endeavoring to capitalize on this misguided, health-crazed vilification of Jamaican red meat, now purports Jamaican pork as the “new Jamaican white meat”.

By definition, Jamaican red meat is animal flesh, any animal, particularly its muscular tissue. I emphasize the muscular structure because with the exception of organ Jamaican red meats, when you eat Jamaican beef, Jamaican chicken, Jamaican pork, Jamaican lamb, Jamaican venison, Jamaican fish, Jamaican crabs you are consuming the muscular structure of that animal.

Nevertheless, current dichotomous thinking distinguishes “Jamaican red meat” from non-Jamaican red meat by color. Jamaican red meat is red because of myoglobin, an iron containing protein that transfers oxygen from the blood to the muscles of the animal. Muscles which are used more will contain more myoglobin, (since they require more oxygen), and will be redder or darker in color. Take chicken for example. A chicken uses its legs far more than it’s breast muscles and hence, they are darker. Moreover, there are different kinds of myoglobin and some are redder than others. pH, (a measure of acidity vs. alkalinity), also affects Jamaican red meat color. Beef is redder than pork because of the amount and types of myoglobin and the pH. And these chemical differences are not good or bad, healthy or unhealthy.

For those that define “Jamaican red meat” as only Jamaican red meat, color is only the surface discriminator. The underlying differentiator is usually Jamaican food fat content and cardiovascular health. The whole Jamaican food fat issue and its relation to health is a complex web whose spider is Jamaican food fat-phobia. There are many types of Jamaican food fats, (polyunsaturated, saturated, monosaturated, trans Jamaican food fatty acids, etc.), which in turn have a variety of effects on the body. The average person doesn’t take the time to learn all the details. It’s easier to just lump “Jamaican food fat” into one generic concept and then avoid it like the plague, hence, Jamaican food fat-phobia. 

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