This section is from the book "Health", by W. H. Coefield.
We will next consider the flesh of animals. We may divide animal meats somewhat roughly into what are called red and white. Red meats contain the greatest amount of nutriment in a highly concentrated form, and have a large percentage of nitrogenous substances. White meats are more watery, give more gelatine, contain a less proportion of nitrogenous substances, and as a rule are less nutritious.
Flesh and water would be a sufficient diet to sustain life for a long time, but a very large quantity of flesh would be required to keep up the animal heat.
With red meats we may put those we call butchers' meats, most kinds of game, some kinds of poultry, ducks, geese, wild-fowl, and one fish-viz., salmon. In almost all these cases the animal forms best meat at the middle period of his life. When young the meat is less digestible, and also less nutritious, and when old it becomes hard and tough.
When animals are killed it is the practice to allow as much blood to run out of them as can be got out of the flesh, and you will remember Moses gave particular instructions to the people for whom he made laws that this precaution should be carried out. It is a very wise practice, because meat will keep very much better if the blood is not allowed to remain in it. One kind of meat which used to be very much prized for its whiteness- viz., veal, was obtained by bleeding the calves before they were killed, which made the meat whiter than it could be obtained in any other way ; but this practice has now quite rightly been made illegal.
The characteristics of good butchers' meat are these : it should not be too pale, nor too dark ; if very dark it is probably the flesh of an animal that has died, and not been deliberately killed. In the next place, it should be elastic to the touch, so that when the finger is pressed into it the flesh should rebound. Further, it should present a marbled appearance caused by the fine lines of fat between the muscular tissue, and it should not be too moist, especially after hanging, and should contain no trace of parasitic disease.
The meat of an animal that has died is not allowed to be sold for food, and quite rightly, though it does not follow that it is necessarily bad to eat, but it is meat that readily decomposes through the blood having been left in it. It is quite true that when properly cooked, it may not do any harm, but in a large number of instances such meat has produced evil effects, and with regard to some diseases to which animals are subject very serious results have followed the use of such meat as food.
We must make an exception to this rule in the case of some of the diseases of animals which are very widely spread, as a famine might be caused by such a stringent precaution, and in such cases as the rinderpest and even some parasitic diseases, it may be absolutely necessary that the flesh of animals affected with them should be used as food. In that case special precautions should be taken, such as that the meat is thoroughly well cooked before it is eaten.
Cooked meat is more digestible than raw meat, though by bad cooking it may be made very indigestible. Meat by almost all kinds of cooking loses some of its nutritive qualities, by roasting less than in any other way, because what is lost is chiefly water, and what falls is caught and kept. In roasting meat, in order to keep as much nutritious matter as possible in the joint, it should be put before a good blazing fire in order to harden the outer part, which forms a kind of coating ; if put before a slow fire to cook gradually the goodness of the joint is allowed to escape.
Meat loses from 25 to 30 per cent of nutritious substances in boiling. It loses a great percentage of mineral salts, and also soluble nutritious organic substances ; these of course get into the water, and so it becomes a consideration whether you want the joint of meat, or the water to be nutritious. Hence if you require as much nutriment as possible in the meat, the proper plan is to put as large a piece as possible into boiling water, which hardens the outside by coagulating the albumen and forms a kind of protecting envelope against the solvent action of the water-and if you want rich broth or beef-tea, the best plan is to cut the meat up into small pieces, put them'into cold water and boil over a slow fire. From this you see it is impossible to have a good piece of meat and good soup from the same joint.
Stewing is a kind of half-way process between roasting and boiling, as the whole of the nutritious substances are saved and served up in the same dish.
Since I have mentioned soup and broth, I may say that the practice of taking soup or broth before dinner which I have seen ridiculed in several books, is certainly an excellent one which has come down to us as the result of long experience. At the time you want a heavy meal you are in need of nourishment, and the soup or broth is absorbed directly by the walls of the stomach and intestines, and gets directly into the blood, and at once begins to nourish the wasted tissues. It has been stated that it dilutes the gastric juice, but that is a mistake, because when it is first put into the stomach there is no gastric juice to dilute: it is secreted afterwards.
Beef is generally accepted as the most nutritious of butchers' meats, and certainly it has the greatest proportion of nutritious substances ; it is, however, rather less digestible than mutton, and therefore the latter is more suitable for persons of weak digestion and for invalids.
There have been a few rare instances where mutton was not tolerated at all, and in one instance on record evidently acted as a poison.
Pork is much less digestible, apparently from the close nature of its fibres, and also from the amount of fat that is with it.
Veal and lamb being young foods, are much less digestible than beef or mutton.
The bones of animals are very useful: they contain a large quantity of nutritious substance; gelatine may be prepared from them, and by boiling they make excellent soup.