Meat Guide: Health Benefits, Concerns and Profile of Different Meat Cuts

“There are a lot of reasons to eat meat, but there are more reasons not to eat meat.”

Meat Cuts:

Pork: One of the most popular meat types is pork. It’s cheap in comparison to other meat and quite versatile when it comes to it’s uses. It can be cooked in a million different ways and it can be used to make ham, bacon, jamon, prosciutto, salami, sausages and hot dogs. As far as it’s nutritional value, it is a good source of protein, B1 vitamin, selenium and zinc. However, it contains high amounts of fat, and a high omega 6:3 ratio, which doesn’t make it a top choice.

Beef: There are many different cuts of beef, with different fat content. It has higher nutritional value than pork (better omega 6:3 ratio, similar protein content, high iron content). However, it is more expensive in comparison to pork.

Chicken: Chicken makes the top 3 in the list of the most popular meat. It is classified as poultry, while the previous 2 are defined as red meat. It has a much lower fat content, similar protein and decent vitamin content. It is also a very good source of gelatin when making soups and broth with chicken bones. It is quite versatile when it come to it’s culinary use, as it can be cooked in any way you can imagine or it can be used to make burgers or ham. It is quite cheap to buy and provides a decent source of necessary vitamins and minerals, particularly selenium, potassium, phosphorus and B vitamins.

Lamb and Mutton: They are quite similar kinds of meat, lamb is from sheep less than a year old and mutton is from adult sheep. Lamb chops is the most popular cut but there are many more. They graze on pasture thus they have a very low omega 6:3 ratio when compared to other meat. It is quite expensive to buy and not so easy to find in some places. Lamb contains high amounts of Zinc, Selenium and B Vitamins.

Turkey: Turkey is another type of white meat such as chicken. Roasted turkey is probably the most popular form of cooking it and appears mainly during Christmas. It’s nutrition profile is quite similar to that of chicken.

Venison: The meat that come from deer. It is possibly the most nutrient-dense form of meat but also very expensive. It is considered read meat such as beef and pork but it’s low-fat content makes it’s nutrition profile similar to chicken but packed with more vitamins and minerals than most meat. It has and excellent omega 6:3 ratio because deer mostly live in the wild.

Bison: Very lean form of red meat. As most wild meat, bison has a low omega 6:3 ratio, unless it is grain-fed. Low calorie choice, high nutritional value.

Rabbit: Very nutrient-dense, low calorie form of meat. It is mainly found in Europe but also in the US and China. It’s got one the best omega 6:3 ratios. Not as high protein content.

Duck: Mainly used in Chinese gastronomy, duck has a similar nutritional profile with lower fat. However, it is mostly served with high fat and sodium sauces in the Asian cuisine.

Other things to consider:

Grain-fed vs Grass-fed:

The nutritional value of meat is not only impacted by the type of cut. The same cut can have a quite better omega 6:3 ratio when the animal is grown outdoor and is grass-fed. A human diet should have a ratio as close to 1:1 of omega 6:3, however nowadays it can go up to 25:1. Thus, the type of meat we consume should be carefully selected.

Animal welfare can have a significant impact on the nutrition profile of meat and should be taken in account for ethical reason as well.

The environmental impact of meat production:

Livestock is one of the most harmful activities for the environment nowadays. Animals release high amounts of substances like methane that pollute the atmosphere, and excessive manure that contains antibiotics, bacteria, pesticides, and heavy metals. When manure is decomposed it releases more methane, ammonia and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere which further contributes to climate change.

Forests like the Amazon that are extremely important for our planet’s wellbeing are being destroyed and millions of acres replaced with monoculture crop fields dedicated to feeding livestock. Converting natural habitats to agricultural fields releases carbon pollution, contributing to climate change. Fertilizers are used to treat the crop fields in much higher amounts that the plants can absorb, thus polluting the waterways.

Solutions (Source):

1. Sustainable Feed Sourcing

a. Raise all meat on feed from suppliers verifiably implementing practices to prevent agricultural run-off pollution, soil erosion, and native ecosystem clearance across their supply chain.

b. Enrollment in nutrient optimization plan to prevent excess fertilizer application

c. Implementation of cover crops and conservation tillage to protect soil health and reduce run-off

d. Policy against clearing native ecosystems

e. Incorporation and support of diverse crop rotation to improve soil health

2. Responsible Manure Management

a. Provide centralized processing facilities to process manure generated

b. Policy against placement of new or expansion of CAFOs in watersheds already classified as “impaired” from nutrient pollution

3. Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reductions

a. Time-bound goals to reduce emissions across supply chain

b. Require meat suppliers to reduce emissions from direct and contract suppliers as well as feed production

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Originally published at https://www.nutritionjourneys.com on November 26, 2022.

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