We have used the iron, fat and omega-3 fatty acid and sodium content to illustrate differences in the nutritional attributes of a range of meat products.

Fat and energy

The fat content and energy content of meat products are similar when trimmed of fat.

Omega-3

The omega-3 content of beef and lamb is higher than that of pork and chicken and has levels similar to that of flake (shark), which has 24mg/100g, but is much less than other fish such as snapper (266mg/100g raw) and salmon (1565mg/100g raw).

Cattle and sheep are ruminants and are able to convert alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) in grass into long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, whereas pigs, which are monogastric animals, and chickens are unable to eat grass as a food source.

Iron

Although beef, lamb and pork are all defined as ‘red meat’ in the Australian Dietary Guidelines, the iron along with the long-chain omega-3 content of pork is similar to that of chicken.

The iron content of beef and lamb is more than double that of pork and chicken.

Sodium

The main difference between processed meat, which includes sausages, ham and bacon, and fresh meat is the sodium content. The sodium content of processed meat products is significantly higher than that of fresh meat products.

Although nitrite is used as a preservative in processed meat products, it is not used in all products. For instance, sausages which are commonly consumed in Australia do not contain nitrites. Other preservatives such as sulphites are used; however, there is trend towards using more natural sources to address consumer concerns.

Table 1: Energy, fat, long-chain omega-3, iron and sodium content of commonly consumed meat products in Australia
Per 100g (raw)Energy (kJ)Fat (g)Omega-3 – EPA+ DHA+DPA (mg)Iron (mg)Sodium (mg)
Beef rump medallion, separable lean 450 2.8 73 2.1 50
Lamb rump, separable lean 542 4.3 66 3.1 65
Pork leg steak, separable lean 466 1.8 17 0.8 50
Chicken thigh, no fat and skin 496 5 24 0.7 62
Beef sirloin steak, fully trimmed 520 3.1 35 2.2 56
Lamb loin chop, separable lean 671 5 75 1.9 71
Pork loin steak, fully trimmed 469 1.6 13 0.5 46
Chicken breast, no fat and skin 438 1.6 23 0.4 41
Beef sausage, reduced fat 598 7.9 NA 1.6 450
Chicken sausage, reduced fat 658 8 NA 0.9 450
Ham*, trimmed 453 2.5 9 0.7 1167
Bacon*, middle rasher, fully trimmed 572 5.5 10 0.5 1450

*contains nitrites

Does the nutritional value differ between cuts?

When trimmed of separable fat, differences in the nutritional value between beef and lamb cuts are small.

Table 2: Fat, long-chain omega-3, iron and sodium content of trimmed and untrimmed beef cuts
Beef
Per 100g (raw)Fat (g)Saturated fat (g)Monounsaturated fat (g)Omega-3 – EPA+ DHA+DPA (mg)Iron (mg)Sodium (mg)
Blade steak:
Fully trimmed
Untrimmed
 
4.4
9.5
 
1.6
3.6
 
1.9
4.4
 
88
80
 
1.9
1.8
 
55
52
Sirloin steak:
Fully trimmed
Untrimmed
 
3.1
15.3
 
1.2
6.4
 
1.3
6.9
 
36
55
 
2.2
2.0
 
56
50
Rump steak:
Fully trimmed
Untrimmed
 
2.8
13.3
 
1.0
5.3
 
1.1
6.1
 
73
60
 
2.1
2.0
 
50
46
Topside steak:
Fully trimmed
Untrimmed
 
3.8
5.0
 
1.4
2.0
 
1.5
2.1
 
68
66
 
1.2
1.2
 
44
43
Table 3: Fat, long-chain omega-3, iron and sodium content of trimmed and untrimmed lamb cuts
Lamb
Per 100g (raw)Fat (g)Saturated fat (g)Monounsaturated fat (g)Omega-3 – EPA+ DHA+DPA (mg)Iron (mg)Sodium (mg)
Forequarter chop:
Fully trimmed
Untrimmed
 
10.8
22.4
 
4.2
9.2
 
4.2
8.5
 
129
129
 
1.5
1.2
 
67
56
Loin chop:
Fully trimmed
Untrimmed
 
7.1
24.4
 
2.8
11.3
 
2.8
8.6
 
78
104
 
1.8
1.4
 
69
53
Leg roast:
Fully trimmed
Untrimmed
 
6.5
12.3
 
2.5
5.1
 
2.6
4.7
 
55
64
 
2.0
1.8
 
65
60

Does cooking affect the nutritional value of meat?

Other than moisture loss, there is little difference in the nutritional value of raw and cooked meat. Up to 30% of moisture is lost with cooking, hence 100g of raw meat is equivalent to 70g of cooked meat.

Reference:

FSANZ (Food Standards Australia New Zealand) (2014) AUSNUT 2011–13 – Australian Food Composition Database. Canberra: FSANZ. Available at www.foodstandards.gov.au