Difference between white meat and dark meat

White meat versus dark meat – what’s the difference, other than white clearly being the preferable choice?

Let’s find out.

a whole fried chicken

When talking about white meat and dark meat, we’re referring to poultry – chicken, turkey, duck. However, white and dark meat differs when it comes to chicken and turkey versus duck and other waterfowl.

Generally speaking for chicken and turkey. . .

White meat:

  • Is in the breast and wings.
  • Comes from muscles used for short bursts of energy.
  • Gets its white color from a carbohydrate called glycogen.
  • Is lower in calories than dark.
  • Is thinner and more tender than dark.
  • Has a milder flavor than dark.

Dark meat:

  • Is in the thighs and drumsticks.
  • Comes from muscles used for prolonged activity.
  • Gets its dark color from a protein called myoglobin.
  • Has more calories, but also more vitamins and minerals, than white.
  • Is fattier than white.
  • Has a game-y flavor.
  • Is less expensive than white.

The thing about chickens and turkeys is they don’t really fly often. They’re pretty much traveling on foot. The breast and wing muscles are only used for quick movements, like when someone startles them. Since they rarely fly, these muscles aren’t used as much, so they are softer and less dense.

For birds who fly a lot (or at least more than chickens and turkeys), like ducks, the breasts and wing muscles are utilized much more often, and are thus, darker. For ducks, the white meat is in the legs and thighs, if at all.

So, if we’re talking about chicken and turkey, the white meat is in the breasts and wings, dark meat in the legs and thighs; other way around for waterfowl.

White meat is milder and more expensive than dark, and in my opinion, tastes much better.

Because darker meat is cheaper, I do try to utilize it on occasion. In fact, just two nights ago the husband and I had some chicken thighs with pesto sauce, which we paired with a lively salad of lettuce, arugula, peas, pear, and feta.