There’s no blood in red meat

Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

The sight of what appears to be blood leaking onto a plate from a medium-rare steak can be off-putting. It’s one reason that steak is often overcooked, even though the trade-off is tough dry meat (and logically; cooked blood).

But the juices that come out are not blood at all.

Mammalian muscle requires oxygen to function, and typically this is transported to muscle by the blood stream.

Which is fine, until a large multicellular organism with claws and sabre-sharp teeth identifies you as a protein source. During your attempt to escape, blood flow cannot keep up with muscle oxygen demand, and you find yourself no longer at the top of the food chain.

That’s why muscle stores a reserve of oxygen in its tissue for emergencies (or breath-holding; think whales and seals). The oxygen is bound to a muscle protein called myoglobin. This protein contains iron, and it tints muscle red.

So the stuff coming out of a medium-rare steak is an iron-rich red protein juice.

Any actual blood in the steak was removed during the process of slaughter, rigor mortis and ageing that transformed the muscle into meat.




Science of cooking, eating and health. Retired neuroscientist.

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Recommended from Medium

Veganism Is More Than A Trend

Vegan Grilled Cheese Sandwiches That Will Save the World

Noble Wine Cellar Tasting Room

5 Documentaries That Help You Reconnect With Animals

Review: The Ethnic Restaurateur

Coffee and me

Hotpot on a Budget

My Vegan Experiment — Going Vegan For One Month (Day 9)

A green salad with olive oil being poured on it by a woman. Pumpkin, olives, pepper mill and peppers are in the background.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store


Science of cooking, eating and health. Retired neuroscientist.

More from Medium

Andy’s Quick Hits (155): Brain function boosted by daily physical activity in middle-aged and older…

Rare Centenarian Gene Variant Improves DNA Repair

Why Stability Is Essential For Longevity

Treating Obesity with Bugs, Not Drugs