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Beef vs Chicken meat - Health impact and Nutrition Comparison

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Beef
vs
Chicken meat

Introduction

When making a choice about our meals this question often comes up. Beef or chicken, which meat is healthier and which is the better choice overall? Here we will compare the two, their nutrition and effects on health and discuss the results.

The main difference between these meats can be noticeable to the blind eye and it is the colour. The colour of meat is decided by the amount of myoglobin, and therefore iron, contained in the muscle of the animal. Chicken is classified as poultry and is white meat, whilst beef is considered to be red meat.

Both beef and chicken can be used in many different ways in the kitchen, however the chicken meat is considered to be more versatile.

Consumption

Out of all types of meat the most widely consumed meat in the world is pork, followed by poultry such as chicken, leaving beef in the third place. In the past 50 years the production of poultry has nearly tripled, whereas beef production has been cut by half (2). There are a few reasons for this drastic change in the consumption of meat, one of them being the fact that chickens are much easier to raise, demanding less feed and are, therefore, cheaper. Beef production also has a significant negative impact on the environment, causing a notable portion of greenhouse gas emissions. 

Types of Meat

There are many parts of the animal’s body that can be eaten as meat, each having their own names. 

The chicken is divided into three parts: the breast, the wings and the legs. The breast is the most commonly used meat in the chicken and it is also the whitest. The legs consist of the drumstick and the thigh, both being darker meats. The wing meat is lighter than the leg meat.

The meat of the cow is also classified depending on its location, like the chuck (shoulder), the brisket and shank (breast), the rib, the sirloin (hip), the short loin, the sort plate, the flake and the round (1). Each type of meat has different qualities, therefore the preparation methods also change.

Nutrition

In this section we will be comparing chicken meat with broiled ground beef, consisting 85% of lean meat and 15% of fat.

Beef is a little higher in fats and contains more calories, whereas chicken is richer in protein. Thus, chicken is the better option for people on low calories or low fats diets. Both chicken and beef, like most meats, do not contain a notable amount of carbohydrates. 

Chicken has a much higher concentration of polyunsaturated fatty acids and a lower concentration of saturated fatty acids. Beef has more monounsaturated fatty acids.

Chicken and beef are equal in the amounts of cholesterol

Vitamins

Chicken meat is richer in most vitamins: vitamin E, vitamin K, vitamin B1, vitamins B3 and B5 and especially vitamin A. The one important vitamin that beef has more of is vitamin B12.

The two meats are approximately equal in vitamin D, vitamin B2 and vitamin B5 and do not contain vitamin C and vitamin B9.

Minerals

Beef easily wins in this category, containing a considerably higher amount of iron and zinc and being richer in calcium, potassium and copper. Beef also contains less sodium.

The two are roughly equal in the amounts of magnesium and phosphorus. 

Health Impact

Cardiovascular Health

The American Heart Association recommends eating poultry such as chicken, instead of red meats, such as beef, pork and lamb. As red meats contain more saturated fatty acids and trans fats, they can raise your blood cholesterol and worsen underlying cardiovascular conditions (3).

However saturated fatty acids are not the only compounds within red meats that can influence the cardiovascular state. Daily consumption of red meat has been shown to triple blood levels of a chemical called trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO), that is produced in the stomach and has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease. Other products that are added in processed red meats, such as sodium, nitrates and their byproducts, may also contribute to their negative health effects. And lastly researches identified that heme iron, which is abundant in red meat, is easily absorbed into the bloodstream and may be another risk factor for cardiovascular health (4). 

Lean cuts of beef and non processed meat are advised to consumers that are trying to lead a healthier lifestyle.

Latest studies suggest that higher intake of processed meat, unprocessed red meat and poultry is significantly associated with a small increased risk of incident cardiovascular diseases. Higher consumption of processed meat, unprocessed red meat, but not poultry was associated with an increased risk of all-cause mortality (5). This means that chicken, whilst being healthier for cardiovascular conditions in comparison to beef, is not devoid of its own risks on cardiovascular health.

Diabetes

Both red meat and poultry are associated with an increased risk of developing diabetes. Some studies suggest that people who have a high intake of red meat and poultry consumption are twice as likely to develop diabetes, compared to those who do not consume meat (6). Red meat and processed meat stand out as contributors to risk.

This increase in risk is most likely associated with the heme iron content, that is higher in red meat when compared to poultry. However, after adjusting for heme iron content in the diet, the red meat and diabetes association was still present, suggesting that other chemicals within red meat may also be responsible for the diabetes risk increase. Contrastingly, the association between poultry consumption and diabetes mellitus was lost after the adjustment, suggesting that only the heme iron content in poultry is accountable for the increased risk (7).

The risk of diabetes mellitus type 2 also increases depending on the preparation method of the meat. Recent studies suggest that frequent use of high heat cooking methods, such as broiling, barbequing or grilling and roasting, to prepare beef and chicken, increased the risk of type 2 diabetes. The exact mechanisms are unclear, however some chemicals formed during high heat cooking, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, heterocyclic aromatic amines and nitrosamines, may be potentially responsible for the effect (8).

Substituting red meat and poultry with fish and shellfish has been shown to be a healthier choice for people at risk of developing type 2 diabetes (7). For beef and chicken, cooking them at lower temperatures or at high temperatures for only a short amount of time may decrease the risk.

Cancer

There have been numerous studies about the increased risk of cancer due to consumption of red and processed meats. Consumption of red meat, such as beef, increases the risk of nasopharynx, pancreas and lung cancers, whilst processed meat additionally increases the risk of esophagus and stomach cancers. Of course the preparation method also plays a role here. High heat cooking methods, such as barbequing, broiling or grilling, increases the risk of stomach cancer (9). Some studies also find an association between red meat intake and breast cancer (10).

In contrast, poultry may lead to a decreased risk of cancers, such as colorectal, esophageal and lung cancers. However one study found an association between eating chicken with the skin on and prostate cancer, potentially due to the compound formations from the high heat cooking (11). Other studies have also found eating poultry to increase the risk of non-Hodgkin lymphomas (10).  

Allergies

While meat allergies are quite rare, they do occur and it is important to be informed about them.

Meat allergies can develop at any point in life. A bite from the Lone Star tick can be the cause of developing meat allergies, related to the compound called alpha-gel. If you are allergic to one type of meat, the risk of being allergic to other types increases. Studies have also found that for children with milk allergies the risk of having a meat allergy is higher (12).

Symptoms are similar to most food allergies, causing an oral allergy syndrome, that includes itching, swelling and redness of the area of the mouth, as well as nausea, vomiting, stomachaches, diarrhea and other symptoms.

Beef vs Chicken Bone Broth

Bone broth is the liquid substance you get after boiling animal bones and connective tissues for a period of time. Other names for this are stock, bouillon or consomme. However there is not a single conclusive definition of what a bone broth is. What to add to this liquid is up to the person making it. So bone broth made from beef or chicken, which is better and how different are they?

Beef having thicker bones, takes a longer amount of time to be made into a broth, compared to the chicken. Chicken is a little easier to digest (13).

Nutritionally chicken and beef bone broth nutrition is similar to the meat; chicken bone broth is higher in proteins and polyunsaturated fats, whilst beef bone broth is higher in minerals. Carbohydrate and sodium concentration depends on the preparation method, additives or the brand. 

Overall, both bone broths can be healthy, but it is important to remember to consume them in moderation.

Bans and Religion

Cows are famously considered to be a sacred animal in India’s majority religion Hinduism. Because of this, consumption of beef has been a controversial issue in the country for a long time. Other popular religions in India, such as Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism, also prohibit the murder and consumption of cows. Legsilature surrounding cattle slaughter varies from state to state, being completely banned in some states and having no regulations in others.

For people celebrating the Christian period of Lent, all meat consumption during this period is prohibited.

For people following the Islamic law, only Halal meat is acceptable, meaning meat that has been acquired in a prescribed manner in accordance with Muslim dietary laws. Similarly for Jewish people adhering the kosher guidelines, only Kosher foods are acceptable.

Summary

In summary, beef contains more calories and fats, whilst chicken is higher in protein. The two meats are equal in the amount of cholesterol and do not contain carbohydrates. Beef is richer in most minerals, except sodium, however chicken meat wins in the vitamin category, conceding only in vitamin B12. 

Both beef and chicken can have negative associations with cardiovascular health, diabetic and oncological conditions, however chicken, especially the breast meat, is the healthier choice.

Sources.

  1. https://ediblekentucky.ediblecommunities.com/recipes/locavores-guide-beef
  2. https://ourworldindata.org/meat-production#meat-production-by-type
  3. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/meat-poultry-and-fish-picking-healthy-proteins
  4. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/news/2019/say-what-scientists-claim-red-meat-and-white-meat-can-have-equal-effects-blood
  5. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/article-abstract/2759737
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3942738/
  7. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/09/170905134506.htm
  8. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/2018/03/23/
  9. https://www.wcrf.org/dietandcancer/exposures/meat-fish-dairy
  10. https://jech.bmj.com/content/73/Suppl_1/A15.1
  11. https://osher.ucsf.edu/patient-care/integrative-medicine-resources/cancer-and-nutrition/faq/animal-protein-cancer-risk
  12. https://acaai.org/allergies/types/food-allergies/types-food-allergy/meat-allergy
  13. https://blog.kettleandfire.com/beef-vs-chicken-bone-broth

Infographic

Beef vs Chicken meat infographic
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Mineral Comparison

Mineral comparison score is based on the number of minerals by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" chart below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food
Beef
7
:
Contains more Iron +106.3%
Contains more Calcium +20%
Contains more Potassium +42.6%
Contains more Copper +28.8%
Contains more Zinc +225.3%
Contains less Sodium -12.2%
Equal in Magnesium - 23
Equal in Phosphorus - 182
Contains more Iron +106.3%
Contains more Calcium +20%
Contains more Potassium +42.6%
Contains more Copper +28.8%
Contains more Zinc +225.3%
Contains less Sodium -12.2%
Equal in Magnesium - 23
Equal in Phosphorus - 182

Vitamin Comparison

Vitamin comparison score is based on the number of vitamins by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" chart below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food
Beef
3
:
Contains more Vitamin B12 +780%
Contains more Folate, total +80%
Contains more Vitamin A +1688.9%
Contains more Vitamin E +125%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +37%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +57.8%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +56.5%
Contains more Vitamin K +100%
Equal in Vitamin B2 - 0.168
Equal in Vitamin B6 - 0.4
Contains more Vitamin B12 +780%
Contains more Folate, total +80%
Contains more Vitamin A +1688.9%
Contains more Vitamin E +125%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +37%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +57.8%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +56.5%
Contains more Vitamin K +100%
Equal in Vitamin B2 - 0.168
Equal in Vitamin B6 - 0.4

Vitamin and Mineral Summary Scores

Summary score is calculated by summing up the daily values contained in 300 grams of the product. Obviously the more the food fulfils human daily needs, the more the summary score is
Vitamin Summary Score
26
Beef
23
Chicken meat
Mineral Summary Score
37
Beef
22
Chicken meat

Macronutrients Comparison

Macronutrient comparison charts compare the amount of protein, total fats and total carbohydrates in 300 grams of the food. The displayed values show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food
Protein
156%
Beef
164%
Chicken meat
Carbohydrates
0%
Beef
0%
Chicken meat
Fats
71%
Beef
63%
Chicken meat

Comparison summary table

Pay attention at the most right column. It shows the amounts side by side, making it easier to realize the amount of difference.
Beef Chicken meat
Lower in Saturated Fat ok
Lower in price ok
Rich in vitamins ok
Lower in Sodium ok
Rich in minerals ok
Lower in Cholesterol Equal
Lower in Sugars Equal
Lower in glycemic index Equal

Which food is preferable in case of diets?

ok
ok
is better in case of low diet
Beef Chicken meat
Low Calories diet ok
Low Fats diet ok
Low Carbs diet Equal
Low glycemic index diet Equal

People also compare

Comparison summary

Which food is lower in Saturated Fat?
Chicken meat
Chicken meat is lower in Saturated Fat (difference - 2.105g)
Which food is cheaper?
Chicken meat
Chicken meat is cheaper (difference - $1)
Which food is richer in vitamins?
Chicken meat
Chicken meat is relatively richer in vitamins
Which food contains less Sodium?
Beef
Beef contains less Sodium (difference - 10mg)
Which food is richer in minerals?
Beef
Beef is relatively richer in minerals
Which food contains less Cholesterol?
?
The foods are relatively equal in Cholesterol (88 mg)
Which food contains less Sugars?
?
The foods are relatively equal in Sugars (0 g)
Which food is lower in glycemic index?
?
The foods have equal glycemic indexes (0)

All nutrients comparison - raw data values

In the column "Opinion" we made some assumptions which could be controversial. For instance we are assuming that less saturated fats is good for you. Please ignore this column if you have your own opinion.We marked the nutrients, comparison of which we considered as not meaningful, as "N/A"
Nutrient Beef Chicken meat Opinion
Calories 250 239 Beef
Protein 25.93 27.3 Chicken meat
Fats 15.41 13.6 Beef
Vitamin C 0 0
Carbs 0 0
Cholesterol 88 88
Vitamin D 2 2
Iron 2.6 1.26 Beef
Calcium 18 15 Beef
Potassium 318 223 Beef
Magnesium 21 23 Chicken meat
Sugars 0 0
Fiber 0 0
Copper 0.085 0.066 Beef
Zinc 6.31 1.94 Beef
Starch
Phosphorus 198 182 Beef
Sodium 72 82 Beef
Vitamin A 9 161 Chicken meat
Vitamin E 0.12 0.27 Chicken meat
Vitamin D 0 0
Vitamin B1 0.046 0.063 Chicken meat
Vitamin B2 0.176 0.168 Beef
Vitamin B3 5.378 8.487 Chicken meat
Vitamin B5 0.658 1.03 Chicken meat
Vitamin B6 0.382 0.4 Chicken meat
Vitamin B12 2.64 0.3 Beef
Vitamin K 1.2 2.4 Chicken meat
Folate, total 9 5 Beef
Folic acid (B9) 0 0
Trans Fat 0.572 Chicken meat
Saturated Fat 5.895 3.79 Chicken meat
Monounsaturated Fat 6.668 5.34 Beef
Polyunsaturated fat 0.484 2.97 Chicken meat
Tryptophan 0.094 0.305 Chicken meat
Threonine 0.72 1.128 Chicken meat
Isoleucine 0.822 1.362 Chicken meat
Leucine 1.45 1.986 Chicken meat
Lysine 1.54 2.223 Chicken meat
Methionine 0.478 0.726 Chicken meat
Phenylalanine 0.725 1.061 Chicken meat
Valine 0.914 1.325 Chicken meat
Histidine 0.604 0.802 Chicken meat
Fructose
The main source of information is USDA Food Composition Database (U.S. Department of Agriculture)
Dietary Guidelines for Americans is used as the primary source for advice in this web resource
Data provided by FoodStruct.com should be considered and used as information only. Please consult your physician before beginning any diet.