Meat consumption is an important part of a healthy human diet. Meat is considered a complete food source due to its chemical composition, and is essential for humans as it contains high biological value proteins, amino-acids, digestible iron, zinc and vitamins B (especially B12).
In Greece, meat products have always held a prominent role in traditional cuisine. Their consumption has not only been part of the dietary habits, but also closely intertwined with religious traditions; throughout antiquity animals were sacrificed during ceremonies and rituals as the ultimate offering to gods. Nowadays, meat products are still preferred over non-meat and are popular in modern cuisine because of their nutritional value and taste.
In recent years, livestock farming in Greece has increased dramatically and has played a significant role in the rural development of the country. Despite the fact that the number of people occupied in the sector has been reduced, the production rates show a continuing upward trend. This has mainly to do with the establishment of new and modern farm units in many areas that facilitate the supply of meat products to the market. Sheep and goat farming is popular in the mountainous areas, whereas free-range cow breeding is more common in the fertile lowlands of the country.
Meat can be broadly classified as "red" or "white": pork, cow, lamb, mutton, goat and buffalo meat are generally considered red, while poultry and rabbit meat are considered white.
Pork meat, when consumed in reasonable amounts, has been proven to be beneficial for our health. It is easily cooked, it's very tender, and every part of it is suitable for cooking (and in many different ways).
Beef meat derives from adult cows and has a darker colour and its fibers are quite harsh. Veal however is the meat of younger animals that have been exclusively fed with milk, it has a lighter colour and its fibers are quite tender.
Lamb, mutton and goat meat are very tasty and have a distinctive flavour and aroma. The breeding of these animals is of great importance for the economy of rural areas as it is the main source of income for many residents.
Buffalo meat is probably the deepest red coloured meat and is extremely beneficial for one's health. It is a rich source of protein and iron while being low in fat and cholesterol. Buffaloes in Greece are mainly bred arounde Kerkini lake, Serres.
White meat is generally considered healthier than red. Chicken is a healthy "alternative" choice, as it is low in fat, rich in protein and really tasty. Poultry industry is very important to the Greek economy and its production manages to cover the biggest part of the consumers' needs.
Cold-cuts & processed meat
Cold cuts are prepared meat products (usually precooked or salt-cured meat), processed following various methods - like boiling, smoking etc. Originally intended as a way to preserve meat, they are now an everyday snack served sliced and cold in sandwiches or plain. Ham, sausages, prosciutto, salami, bacon, mortadella are only a few products in this category.
Most traditional Greek cold cuts and processed meat are produced either from pork, lamb or veal. The most popular are apaki, kavourma, liokafto from Cyclades, nouboulo, pasturma, siglino, soutzouki, etc.
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