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Why Is My Ground Beef Brown Inside?

When it comes to ground beef, some of the questions I am MOST frequently asked by customers are:

  • Why is the inside of a package of ground beef a darker colour than the outside?
  • How do you explain the colour difference between the two?
  • Do you dye your meat?

The answers to these questions are simply, pure food science.

We have all seen this: you buy a package of ground beef from the butcher and, after arriving home from the shop you find the inside is “darker” in colour than the outside? DON’T PANIC! Your butcher hasn’t sold you bad meat, nor have they wrapped old ground beef with fresh, or added dye to it to make it look more appealing.

It turns red because the meat is reacting with the oxygen in the air we breathe. It’s not because of any dye! The meat begins to turn brown in the wrapper once there is no more oxygen to react with it.

The colour difference is due to a naturally occurring chemical reaction called oxidation. The enzymes (and iron) in the protein (meat) are reacting with the oxygen we breathe.

When meat is freshly sliced or ground, the surface of the meat is exposed to oxygen. Exposure to the air we breathe turns the meat from a dark purplish colour to a nice bright red. And, in the case of ground meat products, since the inside has not been exposed to the same amount of oxygen as the outside, the colour difference between the two can be quite dramatic.

The same holds true if you buy a large, vacuum packed beef primal cut. The very instant you open the bag, the oxidation process begins.

This oxidation effect is what those in the meat industry refer to as the “bloom” of the meat.

If you have questions about meat, our experienced staff have answers! Contact us.