Which Olive Oil to Choose
Getting Bread to Rise

Rainbow Colors on Meat

I notice sometimes that meat in the display counter at my local butcher shop has a green and magenta sheen to it.  What causes this?  Is the meat still okay to eat?


What you are noticing is likely a phenomenon referred to as iridescence, or more technically birefringence.  Essentially, this is the same effect as light passing through a crystal and splitting into a rainbow of colors, only the rainbow is from light reflecting off of a surface rather than passing through something.  This can happen with either fresh cut or cured meats, and depends mostly on the angle at which the muscle fiber happens to have been cut.

Birefringence is more noticeable on darker colored meats like beef that lighter ones like chicken because the dark background gives greater contrast.

Provided that it is caused by the reflection of light from the surface and not a permanent green color to the meat, it is still safe to eat.  You can tell by moving the light source, the meat or yourself to a different position and seeing if the rainbow colors shift or disappear.

If you have food or cooking questions, send them to Questions@KitchenSavvy.com
Due to the volume of questions received, not all can be answered.
© Lost Hobbit Enterprises 2004 onward

Due to the volume of questions received, not all can be answered, nor can we guarantee we will answer questions immediately
© Lost Hobbit Enterprises 2004 onward


The color is from the effect of nitrites on myoglobin and hemoglobin COMBINED with the angle of the cut in reference to the muscle fibers.

Wow! Thanks - I've often wondered about that myself. Thanks for the informative answer!

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)