Gabriel Woods
Published by Gabriel Woods
Last Updated On: February 20, 2023

One thing that appeals to those interested in the carnivore lifestyle is the variety of options when it comes to meat.

But the amount of information out there leaves many people unsure which red meats are the best to eat. As a dedicated carnivore, I have gone to great depths to figure out what I ought to be eating.

I have thoroughly researched this topic, and here is a quick guide to some of the best red meats to add to your diet.

Quick Summary

  • Red meat is a superior source of protein and other essential nutrients for good health.
  • Some cuts of red meat can contain excess fat and cholesterol.
  • Some of the best red meats to eat are grass-fed beef, bison, lamb, venison, and pork.

What is Red Meat?

Raw meat on a wooden cutting board

Red meat is any meat that is darker in color than chicken or fish. It has more myoglobin, which is responsible for its red or purple color.

This definition is in contrast to the white meat of a chicken breast or the dark meat of a leg or thigh.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture designates all livestock as red meat [1]. This means that all fresh, processed, and frozen veal meat, lamb, pork, and beef would qualify as red meat.

Additionally, meat from gamey animals such as venison, mutton, hare, boar, and bison would also be classified as red meat.

Red Meat Nutrition

Red meat is an outstanding source of protein, providing all the essential amino acids your body needs to build and maintain muscle tissue. 

This type of meat is a superb source of nutrients such as zinc, iron, selenium, phosphorus, and B-vitamins (including B12).

The liver delivers the most nutrients, but not everyone enjoys the taste [2].

Protein in Red Meat

Raw red meat on a wooden table

Red meat contains a substantial amount of protein, providing all the essential amino acids your body needs to build and maintain muscle tissue.

A 3-ounce serving of cooked red meat (about the size of a deck of cards) contains about 22 grams of protein.

The amino acids in red meat are particularly important for athletes and bodybuilders because they help repair and rebuild muscle tissue after vigorous exercise [3].

Protein is also critical for other functions in the body, such as immune function, hormone production, and enzymes.

Zinc, Iron, and Selenium in Red Meat

A person holding raw meat on his right hand

Red meat is also a fine source of zinc, iron, and selenium. These minerals are crucial for many functions in the body, including growth, development, metabolism, and immune function [4].

Zinc is essential for fertility, growth, development, and wound healing. It is also vital for the senses of taste and smell.

Iron is necessary for the production of hemoglobin, which carries oxygen in the blood. Iron is also involved in energy metabolism and immune function.

Selenium is an antioxidant that helps protect cells from damage. It is also involved in thyroid function and fertility.

Phosphorus and B-Vitamins in Red Meat

Red meat is also a good source of phosphorus and B-vitamins, including B12. Phosphorus is needed for bone health and metabolism. B-vitamins are essential for energy metabolism, immune function, and the nervous system.

Red meat also provides small amounts of vitamin D in the diet, with the liver having more than other parts of the animal.

Read More: How Often Should You Eat Red Meat?

2 Things to Consider when Choosing Red Meat

Since all red meat comes with the nutritional benefits outlined above, the healthiest red meats to eat are those that have the fewest adverse health effects.

1. Saturated Fat and Cholesterol

Close up shot of cooked bacon

The cholesterol and saturated fat level of red meat can contribute to heart disease and stroke, so the healthiest red meats are those that are leaner and have less saturated fat.

The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fat to no more than 5-6% of your daily calories [5].

This means that if you consume 2,000 calories daily, no more than 120 of those should come from saturated fat. That equates to about 13g of saturated fat in your daily diet.

The leanest cuts of red meat include:

  • Beef: eye of round, top sirloin, top loin, roast, tenderloin
  • Pork: tenderloin, loin chop, extra-lean ham
  • Lamb: leg, chops, roast

When choosing red meat, you can also pick animals that are naturally leaner than those found at the grocers. Bison, for example, is a very lean red meat. Elk and venison are also relatively low in fat, as are rabbit and goat.

Read more: What Is the Healthiest Meat to Eat?

2. Processing

Studies have linked highly processed meats to an increased risk of cancer. Colorectal, colon, gastric, and rectal cancers are seen more frequently in those who consume processed meats regularly than in those who do not [6].

Processed meats are also high in salt, leading to high blood pressure and an increased risk of heart disease.

Smoking, salting, and curing are all examples of processing meat, something frequently seen in sausage, bacon, hot dogs, and salami.

When choosing the healthiest red meat, opt for unprocessed or minimally processed cuts, such as:

  • Beef: steak, ground beef
  • Pork: pork chops, ground pork
  • Lamb: lamb chops, ground lamb

Bison meat and venison are also excellent choices of minimally processed red meats.

"Instead of the main course, use red meat as a side dish. Consider red meat a luxury and not a staple food.”
- Dr. Frank Hu, Harvard Health Publishing Department of Nutrition Chairman

Related Articles:


Should I Eat Steak Every Day?

No, you should not eat steak every day. While steak is a good source of protein, it is also high in saturated fat and cholesterol. Consuming excessive saturated fat can lead to heart disease and stroke.

How Many Times a Week Should I Eat Red Meat?

You should eat red meat one to three times per week. On the days you do not eat red meat, you can eat other sources of meat protein such as poultry and fish.

Is Red Meat the Best Choice?

The best red meats to eat are lean, minimally processed, and free of additives. These meats will give you the most nutrients and the least amount of saturated fat and cholesterol.

Choose from the right cuts of beef, pork, lamb, bison, or venison for the healthiest options.

Regardless of your favorite choice of red meat, you want it to be bred healthily - pasture-raised and grass-fed without hormones or antibiotics. To read about our top recommended services that deliver that sort of meat to your door, click here.




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