Benefits of red meat

What role does red meat play in a healthy balanced diet?

Lean red meat can play an important role as part of a balanced diet.

Red meat (beef, lamb and pork) has a high nutrient density. This means that it contains a wide variety of nutrients in a relatively small amount of food. Meat is a major source of protein. It is also an important source of B vitamins, including B12, a vitamin which is not found naturally in foods of plant origin. Meat also contributes minerals and trace elements to the diet, particularly zinc and iron.

To ensure a healthy, balanced diet a wide variety of foods should be included in the diet from the different food groups illustrated on the balanced plate in our resources section.

What is the average fat content of lean red meat?

Fully trimmed lean raw beef typically contains only 4.3% fat, fully trimmed lean raw pork only 4% fat and fully trimmed lean raw lamb only 8% fat. This compares well with a food such as cheddar cheese which contains an average of 34% fat.

How has the fat content of red meat changed over the past 20 years?

The average fat content of lean red meat has decreased significantly over the last 20 years due primarily to modern breeding and feeding programmes, and new methods of butchery which eliminate a high percentage of the visible fat.

For example, an average pork chop bought in the 1950s would have had a fat content of 30% (untrimmed). Today the fat content of a lean raw pork leg steak can be as little as 4%.

What type of fats are found in red meat and does it supply any of the essential fatty acids?

Contrary to popular belief, not all the fat in lean red meat is saturated. About half is unsaturated (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated), with meat being one of the major sources of monounsaturated fat in the diet. Meat also contributes to the intake of essential fatty acids, linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid.