What Is the Best Meat to Eat? Meet Your Meat

Amelia Phillips

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When you are rushing through the supermarket trying to decide what meat to cook for dinner, do you really know what you are looking for? I’m sure you know what tastes great, or what you are comfortable cooking, but what about the health benefits? It is possible your habitual choices could be damaging your health and waistline. I have examined our most popular (and some less popular) meats, and you might find the results surprising!

And the winner is…

Kangaroo meat!!!  For the Aussie readers out there, we grew up watching ‘Skippy’, so now it can be hard to come to terms with eating him! Kangaroo meat has less calories and fat per serve than white fish yet as much iron as red meat and almost as much protein. Skippy really packs a punch in the nutrition stakes! Click here for a Bill Granger marinated kangaroo recipe. They say to treat it as you would beef, however I prefer stews, casseroles and marinades to plain steaks.

Second Place:

White fish. Also extremely low in fat and high in protein, white fish will provide you with some iron, minimal cholesterol and lots of healthy omega 3 fatty acids.

Third and fourth place:

Ostrich, closely followed by chicken breast. I’d like you to note on the chart the vast difference in nutritional value of chicken breasts without the skin versus a BBQ chicken. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that just because it’s chicken, that it’s good for you!

The Healthiest Meats (Best to Worst)


How I came up with the winners:

These statistics are collected mostly from the calorie king website, both the US and Australian versions. This has been a reliable source of nutritional information, especially for fat and calories. In collating the results, the best cuts of meat are ones that will be;

  • Low in fat, especially saturated fat
  • Low in calories
  • Low in Cholesterol
  • High in protein
  • High in iron

Interesting findings:

  • Ostrich is the US version of Kangaroo, an excellent meat choice. It’s usually in the frozen section of the supermarket and can be cooked exactly the same as beef. I also prefer this in a stew but I have eaten the steak and it’s especially nice marinated in soy sauce.
  • Most elite sports people requiring endurance eat kangaroo or ostrich due to the high iron and protein component. Body builders especially like this meat because it is so lean yet so high in protein.
  • Chicken breast with no skin contained the highest protein on the list with saturated fat remaining nice and low.
  • Pork tenderloin, chicken breasts and bison are very similar nutrition wise. But be sure to eat the right part of the pig because other parts such as pork belly (many people’s favorite!) and roasted ham are extremely fatty.
  • Notice that beef and lamb fall low on the list. Don’t despair, just eat sparingly. Especially lamb. The main problem with these two red meats is that they are high in fat including saturated fat. On the positive side they are also the richest source of iron (behind Kangaroo).
  • Salmon came in a surprising 12th. This is mainly due to its high fat content. Interestingly it is quite low in saturated fat, it’s just the unsaturated fat that tips this fish over the edge. On the positive side, salmon contains a lot more essential omega 3 fatty acids compared to other fish. To compare it to other fish as well as mercury levels, click on this chart. Sword fish and shark are a great alternative to salmon, almost as high in omega-3s yet really low in fat.
  • You have been warned about those greasy BBQ chickens! Check out their stats, 300 calories, 14grams of fat.  Steer clear if you value your health!

The best meats for you:

If weight loss is your goal: The first six on the list. Go for kangaroo, white fish, ostrich, chicken breast, pork tenderloin, or bison (in that order).

If increasing muscle size but staying lean is your goal: Chicken breast, ostrich, white fish, pork tenderloin, or beef.

If you have high cholesterol: White fish, ostrich, kangaroo, or ham.

If you need more iron (intense exercisers, mums to be, tired, pale, and elderly): Kangaroo, beef, or lamb. Click here to find out your daily iron intake recommendation as well as other foods rich in iron.

I suggest finding some recipes and experimenting with your three healthiest meats until you find a dish that’s easy to prepare and tastes good. Remember a good rule of thumb is to eat red meat no more than twice per week. UK Newspaper, The Independent has written a really interesting article on red meat and its effects on your health. Hopefully this will open your eyes the next time you reach the meat section of the supermarket!

Got any recipes you love? Maybe you’ve already converted to the healthier meats. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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  • http://www.zineteam.com/fitness/ Joe

    Hi, interesting article on meat. A question; there has been a big change in the way we look at fat and these days a lot of diets claim that fat is the most important thing we can eat. If we wan’t lo loose weight that is. Low Carb High Fat etc. Whats your take on that?
    /Joe, ZineTeam:Fitness

  • http://www.ameliaburton.com.au Amelia Burton

    Hi Joe,

    I am not an advocate for low carb high fat diets. They are unsustainable, promote unbalanced eating and in my experience only work in the very short term.
    The fact is any diet that lowers your overall daily calorie intake will work. Low carb/high fat diets have that added boost of loss of water in the early stages as well as lower calories.
    Many people become irritable and lethargic on these diets, and they certainly find it harder to exercise intensely.
    I recommend cutting carbs out at night, having only vegetables and protein, but I always recommend carbs for breakfast and low GI carbs for lunch.
    Finally it does depend on your genetic makeup. People are either protein, carb, or mixed types. Protein types fare better on low carb, high fat diets. Follow this link to find out yours: http://www.ameliaburton.com.au/2008/04/eat-right-for-your-body-type-metabolic.html

    Hope that answers your question.

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  • Ryan

    Hi Amelia, I noticed this article fails to mention ground turkey or turkey breast. Where do you think these items fall on the list for weight loss or are they just an over-hyped substitute for some of the other meats listed? Thanks

  • http://www.ameliaburton.com.au Amelia Burton

    Hi Ryan,

    Turkey meat is also considered a healthy meat. I always advise clients to buy organic as there is a lot of turkey products out there containing unnecessary hormones and chemicals, just like chicken.

    To put it in perspective, per 100g Turkey contains:
    100 calories
    1.66g fat
    17.07g protein
    1.44mg iron
    70-80mg Cholesterol

    Hope that clarifies things.

  • Clance

    Hi Amelia,

    Love your website (found the ski preparation tips really helpful for when I went to Thredders this year).

    I have so say, I was lucky enough to be coaxed onto Kangaroo when I was finishing school and have eaten it religiously since. I occasionally will cook an expensive beef Angus or lamb steak, but the saturated fat content is always really noticeable. Kangaroo is just so lean, light and – something you didn’t mention (I don’t think) – extraordinarily tender if cooked properly. I like my meat fairly rare and kangaroo accommodates this perfectly. I eat it every week and can’t imagine living without it. So glad to be Aussie! Though I hear they’re now importing Kanga meat all around the world.

    Also, to anyone yet to try kangaroo meat, I highly suggest starting off eating the fillet versions, rather than the steak versions. They are slightly more pricey, but are more representative of the uber-lean, delicious nature of this meat.

    Anyway, love the blog, and thanks for posting this, Amelia. Keep it up!

  • http://www.ameliaburton.com.au Amelia Burton

    Hi Clance,

    Wow thanks for those suggestions, taken from a real Kanga Connoisseur. I usually get the steaks so will definitely try the fillets next time. And your tip about how tender they can be is also very poignant. Many people assume a lean meat will be tough. Not good ol’ skippy though!

    I am so pleased you like my site but very jealous you got to go skiing this year – I missed out.

    Happy reading and happy eating!


  • Jodan Sinclair

    try to ship some of that kangaroo meat to olivet middle schools

  • chadi

    Although i do know that it is concidered taboo to eat horse meat in the US, it is used regularly in European and Asian cuisine.

    Horse meat can be placed in the top 5 of your list if you concider it’s nutritional values (per 100g/3.5oz.):
    Calories: 133
    Protein: 21g
    Fat: 5g
    Iron: 3.8mg
    Sodium: 53mg
    Cholesterol: 52 mg
    (Got them off wikipedia)

  • Ginger Clark

    Are you sure about your recommendation of ham for a person who has high cholesterol? I thought earlier in your article you said to avoid ham because it was much fattier than pork loin and that the latter was the preferred choice when it comes to pork!

  • SARA


  • Phaedra

    Dear Amelia
    You should think twice before recommending kangaroo to eat. Do some research – game meat is loaded with parasites and diseases not found in livestock. While it may be low fat it also can contain toxoplasmosis, salmonella, ecoli etc. Check out http://www.nokangaroomeat.org
    Besides that, there is the aspect of the extreme cruelty of how they kill the kangaroo babies – they are decapitated with a knife, stomped to death with someone’s foot or battered to death against the bull-bars of a ute. Promoting kangaroo meat is endorsing this extreme and shameful cruelty that is approved in the ‘Humane Code of Conduct for Shooting of Kangaroos’.

  • Max

    Phaedra: And non-game meats are most likely pumped full of steroids and antibiotics. The testing for any food is very strict in Australia, especially fresh food. As a western male with an office job, I’ve got more to worry about from heart disease than toxoplasmosis; I’ll risk the game meat.

  • pork is shit

    are u dumb? lamb is way healthier than pork.

  • Jeptha

    What about Alligator meat? It has 67g of protein per serving and has Zero cholesterol and Zero saturated fats.

  • manny

    what if putting on fat is your goal….
    I’m tired of people assuming the whole world is obese, some of us are already very athletic lean and cut, and could really some healthy fat for the winters.

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  • AussieStoner

    Not dumb at all, pork is much healthier than lamb

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  • http://www.smh.com.au/environment/animals/kangaroo-industrys-sham-science-hides-ugly-truth-20101210-18ry8.html malcolm fisher

    Promoting the consumption of kangaroo meat is an awful thing. The kangaroo killing industry is cruel and barbaric. Thousand of tiny joeys are clubbed or left to die a cold, lonely and lingering death. Come on guys we should be protecting and conserving wildlife not contributing to its persecution. And if you did grow up watching “Skippy” I can confirm that these beautiful creatures are still as gentle and intelligent as they were portrayed.

  • malcolm fisher
  • Terri Eather

    I would be extremely careful about recommending eating Kangaroo meat.
    Kangaroo meat is a wild Game meat and there for is full of parasites and diseases. And then on top of that there is the handling of the carcass before it gets to the abattoirs. Held in contaminated Chiller boxes with dents & holes to allow flies to get inside & ‘blow’ on the carcass. The chillers don’t maintain a constant cold temp. The carcasses are held in these boxes for up to 2 weeks. The carcass is hung head down with urine & faecal matter running over the carcass.
    The Roo carcass have a high rate of Toxo which when consumed by humans can cause birth defects in unborn babies, permanent illness and even death. There are documented evidence of kangaroo meat eating causing a baby to be born blind, death of a male person that consumed Roo meat at the same function as the baby’s Mother and permeant disability & reoccurring illness to a married couple.
    Are you prepared to be sued????

    Then there is the moral side of eating our Wildlife that is cruelly MURDERED.
    I DARE everyone here to watch this whole video.

    Watch the 10 year boys joy at bashing a joey.
    The joey is left alive to die in agony.
    Notice that the joey’s Mum is NOT dead when her tendon are slashed & she is hung on the truck. Did you notice that to the right of where she was hung is also another Roo still alive?
    The ‘Drive by’ shooting results in the majority of the Roos being injured. Who will die an agonising death.
    13% of Roos shot by Licensed Shooter (that dosen’t include farmers, weekend cowboys or illegal shooters) are done so humanely. 80% are adult females with 2 dependent joeys that die a horrific death.
    There were approx 300 MILLION Roos when white man invade Australia in 1788. This population was a sustainable population NOT plague. There are less than 50 MILLION left (these are the Govt’s numbers). Roo numbers have decreased by 55% since 2001.
    The majority of Roo Shooter have left the industry in the last 3 years as there are NOT enough Roos to MURDER & make a living.
    Australia has the World’s record for causing the extinction of more Wildlife in 225 years than any other Country has done in thousands of years.
    Leadbeaters’ Possum heading for extinction
    Brush-tailed bettong, a small macropod number have reduced by 90% in the last 7 years.

    So if eating Roo meat dosen’t kill you or deform your unborn baby, may you should look at your moral & values when it comes to eating Roos that have been cruelly MURDER (& their joeys die in agony) so you can eat Roo meat.
    Keep eating Roo meat and you might be able to skite to your Grandkids that you helped cause the extinction of Kangaroos (as well as that you supported cruelty to Kangaroos).

  • Terri Eather

    Also, if there are Christians here that expect to go to heaven, they should be aware that as a Christian you are NOT to consume certain animals, Kangaroos, horses, dogs, cats, ostrich, clam, crab, lobster, crayfish, oyster, shrimp (prawns), bear, fox, koala, pig, snake, primates, camels.

    Adam, Eve, Caine & Abel and their descendants were all Vegetarians

  • lindy stacker

    Ms Burton is totally unaware of the cruelty and complexities of the ‘meat’ she is recommending. Kangaroos are our native alleged ‘protected’ wildlife that like all wildlife species deserve our kindness and respect and that doesn’t come at the end of a fork or a knife. This is a luxury industry and their is no need at all to be consuming and slaughtering our so called protected fauna. The joeys that are ripped from their dead mother’s pouches are decapitated or bashed to death. Ms Burton omitted this very important and confronting fact. If most Australians knew this they would not be so eager to devour Skippy. Even wildlife carers I know said “Oh I never thought about what happens to the joeys”.unquote Furthermore, kangaroos only reproduce at 3-8% per year in GOOD seasons otherwise they don’t breed at all I wish we could say the same for our species. Most joeys don’t survive their first year of life and their mother is lucky to raise to full adulthood ONE young to replace her that’s how tough things are in the wild. This is why macropods have survived for 16 million years post mega fauna and is the reason that we won’t survive possibly past this century. Think about this, farmers have already stated that they won’t be substituting kangaroos for sheep/cattle and that they will only supplement current stock so the results re low Co2 gases will be negligible . Besides kangaroos don’t grow wool, thus these farmers are NOT serious about their alleged concern for the planet. Remember Russia banned imports for 3 yrs due to Salmonella and E.coli contamination from supposedly a market that our govt and the greedy vested interests claimed was so clean and so well regulated. If you truly have any concern for wildlife don’t eat them and if you love this planet go VEG….

  • VivKay

    Kangaroo meat can’t be ensured as being disease free. Killing wild kangaroos means the sickest ones are more likely to be shot. They are slaughtered in remote, hot and dusty areas with little water. Kangaroo meat should be eaten with caution, or better not at all. There’s too much contamination. Why eat meat anyway? There are plenty of foods without consuming flesh and we’d be healthier for it.

    • DeltaDawn


  • yogaguerillagrrl

    Why avoid animal fat? thats so old fashioned. Sugar and seed oils are the things to avoid.

  • Colby

    I like Elk the best. It’s very lean and incredibly tasty. Give me Elk ribeye anyday. I love Ostrich too though.