8 Types of Meat and Their Benefits (Includes Nutritional Profiles)

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Picture Showing Different Cuts and Types of Meat.There are many different types of meat, and all have been part of the human diet for millennia.

Generally speaking, meat is good for you and provides a huge range of essential nutrients.

This article reviews the nutritional profile, health benefits and concerns of eight common varieties of meat.

What kind of meat is the healthiest?

1. Pork

Picture of Pork - Most Popular Types of Meat.

Pork is one of the most popular forms of meat in the world.

Despite some confusion on the issue, pork is classed as red meat. This is because it contains a large amount of myoglobin, a protein responsible for the red color of meat.

In fact, there are so many different cuts of pork, and a variety of meat products use it such as;

Nutrition Facts

Here is the typical nutritional profile for ground pork meat per 100g (1).

(Note: Different cuts of meat will vary in their nutrient content, but this provides a general idea of each meat, and the cuts are as close a match as possible.)

Nutrient Amount 
Calories263 Kcals
Carbohydrate0 g
Protein16.9 g
Fat21 g
   – Saturated7.9 g
   – Monounsaturated9.4 g
   – Polyunsaturated1.9 g
        – Omega-370 mg
        – Omega-61670 mg
Omega 6 to 3 Ratio23.8 : 1
Vitamin A0
Vitamin C1% RDA
Vitamin D
Vitamin E
Vitamin K
Thiamin49% RDA
Riboflavin14% RDA
Niacin22% RDA
Vitamin B619% RDA
Folate1% RDA
Vitamin B1212% RDA
Pantothenic Acid7% RDA
Calcium1% RDA
Iron5% RDA
Magnesium5% RDA
Phosphorus18% RDA
Potassium8% RDA
Sodium2% RDA
Zinc15% RDA
Copper2% RDA
Manganese1% RDA
Selenium35% RDA

Benefits

  • Pork is a particularly significant source of thiamin (vitamin B1). The content of this important vitamin is much higher than in other meat and plays an essential role in glucose metabolism and protecting cardiac health (2, 3).
  • Much cheaper than most other meats.
  • Pork contains decent amounts of selenium and zinc, which are responsible for boosting the immune system, defending against oxidative stress, and optimal hormone production (4, 5).

Concerns

  • Compared to other meats, pork contains extremely high levels of omega-6 fatty acids. Despite being essential for health, an unbalanced ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 can be pro-inflammatory in nature (6).
  • Pork is more susceptible to bacterial contamination and food-borne illnesses than other meat; ensuring pork is thoroughly cooked is essential (7, 8).

2. Beef

Picture of Beef - Common Types of Meat

When most people think of red meat, they probably imagine beef.

There are many different beef products and cuts of beef, ranging from hamburgers to rib eye steaks.

While mainstream health advice often dictates selecting the leanest cuts of red meat, fatty cuts of beef are perfectly healthy.

Nutrition Facts

Here are the nutrient values for ground beef meat per 100g (9).

Nutrient Amount 
Calories254 Kcals
Carbohydrate0 g
Protein17.2 g
Fat20 g
   – Saturated7.7 g
   – Monounsaturated8.8 g
   – Polyunsaturated0.5 g
        – Omega-348 mg
        – Omega-6435 mg
Omega 6 to 3 Ratio9 : 1
Vitamin A0% RDA
Vitamin C0% RDA
Vitamin D
Vitamin E2%
Vitamin K2%
Thiamin3% RDA
Riboflavin9% RDA
Niacin21% RDA
Vitamin B616% RDA
Folate2% RDA
Vitamin B1236% RDA
Pantothenic Acid5% RDA
Calcium2% RDA
Iron11% RDA
Magnesium4% RDA
Phosphorus16% RDA
Potassium8% RDA
Sodium3% RDA
Zinc28% RDA
Copper3% RDA
Manganese1% RDA
Selenium21% RDA

Benefits

  • Despite fearmongering over the fat content of beef, the main fatty acid in beef is none other than oleic acid. If you haven’t heard of it before, then it’s the main fat in olive oil (and known as “heart healthy”) (10, 11).
  • Beef contains a wide variety of beneficial compounds that include creatine, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), and glutathione (12, 13, 14).

Concerns

  • Excessive beef consumption can increase circulating iron to unhealthy levels in some individuals. These high levels can increase the risk of various cancers and cardiovascular disease. This risk is especially the case in those with a genetic mutation called hemochromatosis, which causes over-absorption of heme iron (15, 16).
  • Overcooking beef (burning) can lead to the formation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heterocyclic amines (HCAs). Both of these compounds are carcinogens, but we can minimize their risks by sensibly cooking meat (17, 18).

3. Lamb and Mutton

Picture of Lamb Chops Ready For Cooking.

Both lamb and mutton are very similar types of meat, with one fundamental difference;

  • Lamb is from a sheep less than one-year-old
  • Mutton is the meat of an adult sheep

Just like beef and pork, there are a variety of popular lamb cuts — perhaps lamb chops are the most popular.

Nutrition Facts

Per 100g, the nutritional profile of ground lamb meat looks something like this (19);

Nutrient Amount 
Calories282 Kcals
Carbohydrate0 g
Protein16.6 g
Fat23.4 g
   – Saturated10.2 g
   – Monounsaturated9.6 g
   – Polyunsaturated1.9 g
        – Omega-3420 mg
        – Omega-61360 mg
Omega 6 to 3 Ratio3.2 : 1
Vitamin A0% RDA
Vitamin C0% RDA
Vitamin D
Vitamin E1% RDA
Vitamin K4% RDA
Thiamin7% RDA
Riboflavin12% RDA
Niacin30% RDA
Vitamin B66% RDA
Folate5% RDA
Vitamin B1239% RDA
Pantothenic Acid7% RDA
Calcium2% RDA
Iron9% RDA
Magnesium5% RDA
Phosphorus16% RDA
Potassium6% RDA
Sodium2% RDA
Zinc23% RDA
Copper5% RDA
Manganese1% RDA
Selenium27% RDA

Benefits

Generally speaking, both lamb and mutton is very healthy.

  • Because sheep graze on pasture all day, the omega 6 to 3 ratio is very low—and optimal—compared to other meats (20).
  • Lamb contains a broad range of health-protective nutrients, especially zinc, selenium and B vitamins.

Concerns

  • Lamb is very expensive in comparison to different kinds of meat.

4. Chicken

Picture of Chicken.

Alongside beef and pork, chicken is one of the ‘big three’ popularity-wise.

However, chicken is a different classification of meat and comes under the poultry category.

People commonly refer to as ‘white meat’ rather than red.

As one of the most popular foods in the world, there are all sorts of chicken-based foods. These range from fried and roasted chicken to chicken soup and even chicken popcorn.

For health purposes, it is better to avoid the more processed of these options.

Nutrition Facts

Ground chicken meat provides the following nutrients per 100g (21);

Nutrient Amount 
Calories143 Kcals
Carbohydrate0 g
Protein17.4 g
Fat8.1 g
   – Saturated2.3 g
   – Monounsaturated3.6 g
   – Polyunsaturated1.5 g
        – Omega-396 mg
        – Omega-61327 mg
Omega 6 to 3 Ratio13.8 : 1
Vitamin A0% RDA
Vitamin C0% RDA
Vitamin D
Vitamin E1% RDA
Vitamin K1% RDA
Thiamin7% RDA
Riboflavin14% RDA
Niacin22% RDA
Vitamin B619% RDA
Folate1% RDA
Vitamin B1214% RDA
Pantothenic Acid11% RDA
Calcium1% RDA
Iron5% RDA
Magnesium5% RDA
Phosphorus18% RDA
Potassium15% RDA
Sodium3% RDA
Zinc10% RDA
Copper3% RDA
Manganese1% RDA
Selenium15% RDA

Benefits

  • Chicken is very cheap and easily affordable.
  • For those who are trying to consume less fat/calories, chicken offers a smaller amount than other meats but with the same protein content.
  • Chicken stock/broth offers a significant source of gelatin. As chicken bones have a lower density than other meats, the collagen and gelatin are far easier to extract.
  • Chicken provides a decent source of necessary vitamins and minerals, particularly selenium, potassium, phosphorus and B vitamins.

Concerns

  • Due to commercial chicken feed—and similar to pork—chicken contains an excessive amount of omega-6. Whether this is problematic or not likely depends on the overall diet.
  • Bacterial contamination with strains such as E. coli and salmonella is too common in chicken. As a result, strict hygiene procedures are necessary when handling the raw meat (22, 23).

5. Turkey

Picture of Roast Turkey - a Christmas Favorite.

Turkey is another type of white meat, probably best known for its appearance at the Christmas table!

It has both a deeper yet drier taste than chicken and is a less prevalent form of poultry.

As mentioned above, the most popular kind is probably roast turkey, but you can find a variety of processed and unprocessed turkey products.

Nutrition Facts

Turkey’s nutritional composition is very similar to chicken and looks like this (24);

Nutrient Amount 
Calories149 Kcals
Carbohydrate0 g
Protein17.5 g
Fat8.3 g
   – Saturated2.3 g
   – Monounsaturated3.1 g
   – Polyunsaturated2.0 g
        – Omega-3110 mg
        – Omega-61800 mg
Omega 6 to 3 Ratio16.3 : 1
Vitamin A0% RDA
Vitamin C0% RDA
Vitamin D
Vitamin E2% RDA
Vitamin K1% RDA
Thiamin4% RDA
Riboflavin8% RDA
Niacin17% RDA
Vitamin B618% RDA
Folate2% RDA
Vitamin B126% RDA
Pantothenic Acid7% RDA
Calcium1% RDA
Iron7% RDA
Magnesium5% RDA
Phosphorus16% RDA
Potassium7% RDA
Sodium4% RDA
Zinc13% RDA
Copper4% RDA
Manganese1% RDA
Selenium27% RDA

Benefits

  • Turkey is among the most protein-dense of all meats, offering 17.5 grams of protein in only 149 calories.
  • Similar to chicken, turkey also provides a significant amount of B vitamins, potassium, selenium and phosphorus.
  • Turkey provides an inexpensive source of high-quality protein.

Concerns

  • Similar to other forms of poultry, turkey is more likely to harbor foodborne bacteria than red meat (25).

6. Venison

Picture of Venison Meat - a Meat Growing in Popularity.

Venison refers to the flesh of a deer, and it is a traditionally rarer type of meat.

In recent years, sales of venison have been soaring as a result of its healthy reputation among consumers.

But is that reputation justified?

Nutrition Facts

Despite it being a red meat, venison is very lean. In terms of nutrition, it looks more like white meat.

Here are the nutritional details per 100g of ground venison (26);

Nutrient Amount 
Calories157 Kcals
Carbohydrate0 g
Protein21.8 g
Fat7.1 g
   – Saturated3.4 g
   – Monounsaturated1.3 g
   – Polyunsaturated0.4 g
        – Omega-3104 mg
        – Omega-6225 mg
Omega 6 to 3 Ratio2 : 1
Vitamin A0% RDA
Vitamin C0% RDA
Vitamin D
Vitamin E2% RDA
Vitamin K1% RDA
Thiamin36% RDA
Riboflavin17% RDA
Niacin28% RDA
Vitamin B623% RDA
Folate1% RDA
Vitamin B1231% RDA
Pantothenic Acid7% RDA
Calcium1% RDA
Iron16% RDA
Magnesium5% RDA
Phosphorus20% RDA
Potassium9% RDA
Sodium3% RDA
Zinc28% RDA
Copper7% RDA
Manganese1% RDA
Selenium14% RDA

Benefits

  • As deer live and feed in the wild, venison is one of the healthiest and most natural varieties of meat. The excellent omega 6 to 3 ratio (2:1) shows the benefits of an animal living on a natural diet.
  • Venison has more vitamins and minerals than beef despite having significantly fewer calories. In short, venison is possibly the most nutrient-dense meat out there.

Concerns

  • While there are no major health concerns, one obstacle could be the price; venison costs a lot. Expect to pay around $30 for one pound of venison steak.

7. Duck

Picture of a Cooked Duck Dish.

Duck is one of the less popular types of meat.

However, it has immense popularity in Chinese populations, where ‘Peking duck’ is a showpiece dish.

Like chicken and turkey, we can consider duck as a kind of white meat.

Nutrition Facts

Typical duck meat provides the following nutrients (27);

Nutrient Amount 
Calories132 Kcals
Carbohydrate0 g
Protein18.3 g
Fat5.9 g
   – Saturated2.3 g
   – Monounsaturated1.5 g
   – Polyunsaturated0.7 g
        – Omega-380 mg
        – Omega-6670 mg
Omega 6 to 3 Ratio8.4 : 1
Vitamin A2%
Vitamin C10% RDA
Vitamin D
Vitamin E4%
Vitamin K3%
Thiamin24% RDA
Riboflavin0.5% RDA
Niacin5.3% RDA
Vitamin B617% RDA
Folate6% RDA
Vitamin B127% RDA
Pantothenic Acid16% RDA
Calcium1% RDA
Iron13% RDA
Magnesium5% RDA
Phosphorus20% RDA
Potassium8% RDA
Sodium3% RDA
Zinc13% RDA
Copper13% RDA
Manganese1% RDA
Selenium20% RDA

Benefits

  • Duck provides a significant amount of selenium, phosphorus, and B vitamins. These vitamins are all important for optimal energy production and a well-functioning immune system (28, 29).

Concerns

  • Making duck at home—or having a roast duck—is perfectly healthy. However, be aware that in Chinese cuisine, duck often comes in sauces made from a variety of additives including sugars, oils, and monosodium glutamate (MSG).

8. Wild Boar

Picture of Wild Boar Meat.

Wild boar is a non-domesticated pig that lives in the wild.

The meat of this animal is also known as ‘wild boar.’

Generally speaking, wild boar contains a higher proportion of protein and a smaller amount of fat than regular pork.

Nutrition Facts

Wild boar has very different nutritional values from domestic pork, and per 100g it looks like this (30);

Nutrient Amount 
Calories160 Kcals
Carbohydrate0 g
Protein28.3 g
Fat4.4 g
   – Saturated1.3 g
   – Monounsaturated1.7 g
   – Polyunsaturated0.6 g
        – Omega-330 mg
        – Omega-6500 mg
Omega 6 to 3 Ratio16.7 : 1
Vitamin A0% RDA
Vitamin C0% RDA
Vitamin D
Vitamin E
Vitamin K2% RDA
Thiamin21% RDA
Riboflavin8% RDA
Niacin21% RDA
Vitamin B621% RDA
Folate1% RDA
Vitamin B1212% RDA
Pantothenic Acid0% RDA
Calcium2% RDA
Iron6% RDA
Magnesium7% RDA
Phosphorus13% RDA
Potassium11% RDA
Sodium3% RDA
Zinc20% RDA
Copper3% RDA
Manganese0% RDA
Selenium19% RDA

Benefits

  • As it lives and feeds in its natural environment, wild boar contains a higher proportion of omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Wild boar contains an array of health-protective nutrients, in particularly B vitamins, selenium, and zinc.

Concerns

  • Despite containing a higher amount of omega-3, the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is still very high.
  • Trichinella spiralis, a parasite sometimes found in pigs, occasionally contaminates wild boar meat. There have been several outbreaks of this in recent years, but it is very rare (31, 32, 33).

Omega-6 to Omega-3 Ratio By Variety of Meat

One of the biggest trends over the past decade is the focus on naturally raised, grass-fed beef and pastured animal products.

Perhaps the main reason why relates to the omega 6 to 3 ratio of the meat.

In the past, the traditional human diet was believed to be close to a ratio of 1:1 omega-6 to omega-3. However, modern-day estimates place this ratio up to a high of 25:1, which is pro-inflammatory (34).

For easy reference, here are the omega-6 to 3 ratios for all the meats in this article;

Type of MeatOmega-6 to Omega-3 Ratio
Beef9 : 1
Chicken13.8 : 1
Duck8.4 : 1
Lamb and Mutton3.2 : 1
Pork23.8 : 1
Turkey16.3 : 1
Venison2 : 1
Wild Boar16.7 : 1

Please note that these are for conventional meats and you can expect a better ratio for grass-fed meat.

The amount will also vary depending on what producers feed the animals.

Which Type of Meat is Healthiest?

Picture of a Girl Holding Some Meat in the Air.

To be honest, there is no single meat that is the outright healthiest.

There are a variety of factors to consider which include the nutrient profile, taste, and price.

If the meat is prohibitively expensive, or you don’t like the taste, then you won’t be able to eat it well.

So, the first thing to remember is that any unprocessed meat is a whole lot better than industrially processed food.

However, although I enjoy fatty chicken and pork from time to time, I try to avoid eating too much of them due to the large amounts of omega-6 they contain.

If we look purely at the nutrient profile, then venison has a great case for being the healthiest meat.

The more realistic option for the majority of people would be beef.

Organ Meat

Organ meats are among the most nutrient-dense of all foods.

Although they are not as popular as they once were, foods like beef liver and kidneys are full of essential nutrients.

See this guide to organ meats for further information.

Cured Meat

While cured meats do not have as good a health reputation as fresh meat, the dangers are often overplayed.

This guide to cured meats discusses the most popular options.

  • What an outstanding article! I had no idea that pork had such an astronomical Omega 6: 3 ratio. Too bad it’s my favorite meat. I guess I’ll have to start eating more lamb and beef. Thank you so much for this valuable information.

    • Technically, calling fish a type of meat would be correct.

      But we’ve (as a society) basically classified meat as land animals, so mentioning salmon etc as a “meat” would be confusing to people.

      • Thank you for your reply.
        Some friends and I were talking about it and by definition it is a meat but I couldn’t find any other evidence to back it up

  • Great Article…..
    Helped me to understand the basics and types of Meat…..
    I was always so confused between Bacon and Ham and Steak…..
    Now I got the proper Classification….
    Thanks for the Info…..

  • Thank you for that breakdown Michael – it’s great! We don’t get wild board where we live (Vancouver Island, BC, Canada), but we do get Bison (buffalo). We’re very fortunate that our local Farmers Market supply all of the rest, and at very reasonable prices. When we visited Australia we ate a lot of lamb, simply because over there it’s really one of the cheapest meats.

    Would be nice if you could to a similar thing for common fish. On the West Coast of Canada we get lots of wild Salmon (Sockeye, Coho, Pink etc.) – very different from farmed Salmon though. Also harvested sustain-ably is a local variety of Tuna called Albacore. Both these come at what I consider very reasonable pricing, but Halibut has become very expensive.

    • Thanks, doctor!

      The nutritional information is pulled from the USDA’s nutrition profile database. If you click the numbers in the parentheses e.g. (9) you can see the data for each food.

  • This is a great article! I had a gastric bypass done 9 months ago, and I only eat red meat once a month. I only have about 3-4 ounces of meat. I have B12 and iron deficiency and it really helps my body. I never fry it. I always boil it and then sauté it with veggies.

  • I started eating only meats and was wondering of the nutritional values this is perfect. i’m going to eat an lot of beef, seafoods, some chicken, pork but lamb wasn’t high on my list now its going to be second on it. it would have been great to see the values of chicken hearts liver and gizzards, beef liver as well.

  • Interesting! But you haven’t differentiated between grass-fed or free-range! Aberdeen Angus grass-fed beef for instance has a very different profile to mass produced US beef! Same with chickens free-range compared to mass produced caged?

    • Hi Lucy! Thanks for commenting. I added somewhere in there that grass-fed will offer better nutrition profiles. The main thing was that the USDA food database doesn’t contain grass-fed options for all the different varieties of meat, so the standard “conventional” values were used to keep it fair and compare directly.