Parkes gives the following characteristics of good meat: - The flesh should be firm, elastic, of a bright, uniform colour; in fresh meat the outside is lighter than the inside, owing to oxidation of the haemoglobin of the blood; lean meat is paler than blood, so that a dark purple colour shows that the blood has not been properly drained away; when fresh meat is placed on a plate it should always part with a slight amount of reddish juice; the flesh of young subjects is always paler than that of the mature animal. The muscle should be finegrained, have a slight, pleasant odour, becoming savoury when heated; the flesh should present a marbled appearance, owing to the admixture of fat with the muscular fibres. On cutting, the interior should show no softening of the connective tissue, as this indicates the commencement of decomposition. The "knife-blade" test is easily applied: push a clean knife-blade down to the bone, and any internal softening will be detected by lessened resistance, and by an unpleasant smell of the blade on withdrawal. The fat should be healthy-looking, free from bleeding, and firm, not jelly-like in texture; its colour varies from straw-white to pale yellow, being whiter in young animals. The state of the marrow is often a good test of the condition of the meat. It should be light rosy red in colour, and in the hind legs solid and firm twenty-four hours after killing, while in the fore legs it is rather softer, like honey.
Beef is at its best when got from an ox of two years of age. Besides being affected by the factors already mentioned, it varies in quality according to the part of the animal used, and also to the style of cooking employed. The best parts are the rump, sirloin, and ribs (see fig., p. 52). Ox fat is softer than mutton fat, on account of the larger proportion of olein in it.
Mutton is generally considered to be more easy of digestion than beef; this may be due to the finer fibres and looser connective tissue. Experiments, however, do not seem to prove this conclusively. The flesh of the sheep is usually much fatter than beef, and the fat is hard and solid, owing to the greater proportion of stearin. There is no doubt that hot mutton fat is irritating to some digestions. Mutton differs very greatly in quality and flavour; when of the best quality, it is a most excellent form of animal food.