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Beef vs Lamb and mutton - Health impact and Nutrition Comparison

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Article author photo Victoria Mazmanyan by Victoria Mazmanyan | Last updated on October 14, 2021
Education: General Medicine at YSMU
Beef
vs
Lamb and mutton

Summary

Lamb is higher in calories, fats, including saturated, polyunsaturated fat and cholesterol, essential amino acids, and most vitamins. At the same time, beef is richer in protein due to more non-essential amino acids, iron, zinc, and vitamin B6.

Introduction

People often choose meat based on its subjective qualities, such as taste and texture. However, different types of meat can vary with their nutrition and their impact on health. In this article, we will discuss the differences and similarities between lamb or mutton and beef based on scientifically proven information.

Classification

The main difference between lamb or mutton and beef is naturally the animal they come from.

Lamb, mutton, and hogget are all names for domestic sheep meat. However, these terms are not interchangeable. Mutton or hogget is the meat of fully grown sheep, usually two and three years of age, respectively, while lamb is the meat of a sheep younger than the age of one.

Beef is the meat of older cattle: domesticated cows or bulls. The meat of young cattle is called veal. To see a complete comparison of veal and lamb or mutton, you can visit this page.

Lamb and beef are both classified as red meat. Compared to white meat, red meat is darker in color and richer in myoglobin, and therefore heme iron.

Appearance

Lamb and beef meat can be very hard to tell apart based on appearance alone. Beef and lamb are dark in color, both being types of red meat. However, when comparing the two, beef can appear to be darker due to a higher iron and myoglobin content.

Both beef and lamb have white stripes of intermuscular fat called marbling. The amount of marbling in the meat depends on the cut.

Taste and Use

Mutton and beef are similar in taste. This taste of red meat is described as umami. Depending on the fat content, it can also be buttery and soft or dry and firm.

Compared to mutton and beef, lamb is said to have a more tender texture and a more delicate flavor.

Beef is used in cultures all over the world, while lamb and mutton are more common in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine.

Beef and lamb are often used in their ground form, especially in burgers. Beef burgers are a lot more popular than lamb burgers.

Price

On average, in the US market, beef tends to be a little cheaper by about 0.3$.

Varieties

The nutritional and culinary qualities of meat can differ based on the type of meat. Meat can be classified based on the cut or how the animal was raised.

Cuts of beef include the chuck (shoulder), the brisket and shank (breast), the rib, the sirloin (hip), the short loin, the short plate, the flake, and the round.

Similarly, depending on the cut, you can find the following varieties of lamb or mutton: the square cut shoulder, the rack or rib, the loin, the leg, the neck, the breast, the shanks, and the flank.

How the animal has been raised also has a role in the characteristics of the meat. Depending on the conditions in which the cows have been kept, beef can be formula-fed, also known as milk-fed or white, non-formula fed, also known as red, pasture-raised, or free-raised. Beef can also be grass-fed or organic.

All red meat can be processed or unprocessed. Meat undergoes processing to extend its shelf life, as well as to improve its taste, color, and appearance. These processing methods include curing, smoking, salting, drying, or adding preservatives and colorings. Some examples of processed red meat are ham, sausages, salami, and pepperoni.

Nutrition

The nutrition of meat greatly varies depending on the cut and fat content.

The nutritional values below are presented for cooked domestic lamb, a composite of trimmed retail cuts, trimmed to ¼ inch fat, and broiled ground beef with 15% fat and 85% lean meat.

Macronutrients and Calories

Overall, lamb is denser in nutrients, as it contains only around 54% water and 46% nutrients, while beef consists of 58% water.

As with most meat, the average serving size for both lamb and beef is 3oz, equal to 85g.

Calories

Lamb and beef are both high-calorie foods. Nevertheless, lamb provides more energy between the two, containing 294 calories per 100g serving, while the same serving size of beef has 250 calories.

However, the calorie content of meat can significantly change with a different cut or cooking method. When comparing only lean cuts of roasted beef tenderloin or loin with a completely lean cut of fast fried lamb tenderloin, we find that the lamb can be slightly lower in calories. Lean lamb tenderloin contains 155 calories, while lean beef tenderloin provides 168 calories (1, 2).

Protein

While being less dense in nutrients, beef is still richer in protein. A 100g serving of beef provides 25.93g of protein. At the same time, the same serving size of lamb contains 24.52g of protein.

Despite being lower in protein overall, lamb is richer in all of the essential amino acids. Therefore, the protein found in lamb is of higher quality.

Lamb is particularly richer in tryptophan, containing over three times more than beef.

Of the non-essential amino acids, lamb is also richer in aspartic and glutamic acids.

Fats and Cholesterol

Between these two cuts of meat, lamb is notably richer in fats. The same 100g serving size of cooked lamb contains about 21g of fats, while cooked beef provides 15.4g of fats.

Naturally, lamb is higher in all types of fat: saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated. However, while lamb meat is only 1.5 times higher in saturated fat than beef, it is over 3 times richer in polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Overall the fatty acid composition in beef is as follows: 45% saturated fats, 51% monounsaturated fats, and 4% polyunsaturated fats. Lamb, on the other hand, consists of 46% saturated fats, 46% monounsaturated fats, and 8% polyunsaturated fats.

Unsurprisingly, lamb is also slightly higher in cholesterol. The same 100g serving size of lamb contains 97mg of cholesterol, while beef contains 88mg.

Carbohydrates

Like most meat, both beef and lamb contain no notable amount of carbohydrates.

Vitamins

Overall, lamb and mutton tend to be more abundant in vitamins. Lamb and mutton contain 2 times more folate, vitamin B1, and nearly 4 times more vitamin K. Lamb or mutton is also richer in vitamin B2, vitamin B3, and vitamin E.

Beef, on the other hand, provides 3 times more vitamin B6.

Lamb or mutton contains vitamin D, which beef lacks completely. At the same time, vitamin A can be found in beef but not in lamb.

The two types of meat are almost equal in the contained amounts of vitamin B12 and vitamin B5, with beef being only a little richer in vitamin B12.

Lamb, mutton, and beef are all absent in vitamin C.

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 A +∞%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +193.8%
Contains more Vitamin E +16.7%
Contains more Vitamin D +∞%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +117.4%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +42%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +23.8%
Contains more Folate +100%
Contains more Vitamin K +283.3%
Equal in Vitamin B5 - 0.66
Equal in Vitamin B12 - 2.55
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Vitamin K 1% 3% 0% 0% 12% 41% 101% 40% 89% 7% 331% 3%
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Vitamin K 0% 3% 3% 0% 25% 58% 125% 40% 30% 14% 319% 12%
Contains more Vitamin A +∞%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +193.8%
Contains more Vitamin E +16.7%
Contains more Vitamin D +∞%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +117.4%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +42%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +23.8%
Contains more Folate +100%
Contains more Vitamin K +283.3%
Equal in Vitamin B5 - 0.66
Equal in Vitamin B12 - 2.55

Minerals

Meat can be an important source of nearly all the minerals needed in a diet. While beef and lamb are not cardinally dissimilar in their mineral compositions, there are some differences.

Beef is a better source of iron and zinc. Beef is also slightly higher in potassium, phosphorus, and calcium.

On the other hand, lamb contains 1.4 times more copper, as well as relatively higher levels of selenium, magnesium, manganese, and choline.

Lamb and beef contain equal amounts of sodium.

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
Contains more Iron +38.3%
Contains more Zinc +41.5%
Contains more Copper +40%
Equal in Calcium - 17
Equal in Magnesium - 23
Equal in Phosphorus - 188
Equal in Potassium - 310
Equal in Sodium - 72
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper 6% 98% 15% 85% 29% 10% 173% 29%
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper 6% 71% 17% 81% 28% 10% 122% 40%
Contains more Iron +38.3%
Contains more Zinc +41.5%
Contains more Copper +40%
Equal in Calcium - 17
Equal in Magnesium - 23
Equal in Phosphorus - 188
Equal in Potassium - 310
Equal in Sodium - 72

Glycemic Index

The glycemic index of both lamb and beef is considered to be 0 due to the absence of carbohydrates. You can learn more about the glycemic index of foods with low or no carbohydrates.

Acidity

The pH of meat changes depending on its freshness and the conditions in which it has been kept.

The acceptable range of the pH value for beef falls between 5.3 to 5.7. As the pH value of beef reaches 6.5, it starts to decompose (3). This means that beef has an acidic pH value.

The pH value of lamb can vary between 5.7 to 6.05 (4). Evidently, the pH of lamb tends to be more acidic than that of beef.

Another way of measuring the acidity of a certain food is by looking at its potential renal acid load or PRAL value, which shows how much acid or base it produces.

The PRAL values of lamb and beef are 11.6 and 12.6, respectively. This demonstrates how beef is slightly more acid-producing inside the organism.

Weight Loss & Diets

Lamb, mutton, and beef are all high-calorie foods. However, this does not necessarily exclude these foods from weight loss diets, as they are high in protein but very low in carbohydrates.

Between these two types of meat, beef is the better choice for low-calorie and low-fat diets. Both lamb and beef fit well into low carb and low glycemic index diets.

Research has found a correlation between high meat intake and increased risk of weight gain and obesity (5, 6). However, this risk is higher with processed and fatty meats, as opposed to unprocessed and lean meats (7).

Red meat, including both lamb and beef, is a major part of the keto and Atkins diets.

A Paleo diet allows the consumption of unprocessed lamb, mutton, and beef, but not processed meat.

Consumption of lamb and beef within limits can also be a part of a Mediterranean diet.

Health Impact

Red meat and its effects on health have been at the center of attention for many researchers for several decades. However, while some things are certain, science is still inconclusive about other areas. In this section, we will discuss the most popular studies examining red meat, including lamb and beef, and its impact on health.

Health Benefits

Overall, lean and unprocessed meat has a more beneficial impact on health than fatty and processed meats. While lamb and beef have similar fat compositions, lamb tends to have a more favorable fat profile between the two.

Cardiovascular Health

A healthy diet, low in saturated fats and high in lean beef, has been researched to lead to favorable effects on cardiovascular disease due to decreased levels of total cholesterol and low-density lipoproteins (8).

A diet low in calories but high in protein from lean red meat can also improve risk markers of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes (9).

South African lamb, in particular, has been studied to be a good source of protein, with its moderate intake potentially decreasing levels of homocysteine in the blood (10).

Diabetes

As mentioned above, a low-calorie diet high in lean red meat may have a beneficial effect on the risk markers of type 2 diabetes mellitus (9).

Downsides and Risks

The possible mechanisms of action for the adverse effects of red meat include inflammation, oxidative stress, and negative effects on the liver, pancreas, and fat cells due to high levels of heme iron, saturated fats, branched amino acids, and other compounds. (11).

Unlike unprocessed red meat, processed red meat undergoes various treatments to extend its shelf life. Processed red meat may contain higher levels of sodium and nitrates, as well as additives and contaminants. These contaminants can have various harmful effects on health (11).

Cardiovascular Health

Various studies have shown a correlation between the consumption of both processed and unprocessed red meat and an increased risk of stroke, coronary heart disease, and potentially even heart failure (11).

Due to the heme iron content, high consumption of red meat has also been associated with higher blood pressure (12).

Diabetes

A considerable number of studies have consistently shown that a diet rich in red, and especially processed, meat is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus.

The risk of type 2 diabetes can increase depending on the preparation method of the meat. Research suggests that certain preparation methods, in particular the use of high heat cooking methods, such as broiling, barbecuing, or grilling and roasting, increase the risk of type 2 diabetes (13).

Cancer

The practice of cooking meat at high temperatures, such as pan-frying and barbecuing, may lead to the production of heterocyclic amines, which are thought to increase cancer risk in humans (11).

Grilled or barbecued meats may also contain high levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which promote the development of cancer and DNA damage (14).

Research has found that a high intake of both processed and unprocessed red meat may increase the risk of esophageal, colorectal, pancreatic, and liver cancers (11).

Bans and Religion

Beef is considered to be a respected creature of God in Hinduism. Due to this reason, there are laws in India prohibiting the slaughtering of cows which vary by state. Slaughtering a cow in India is punishable by law, with a jail sentence from 6 months up to 10 years, depending on the state.

Consumption of sheep meat is not prohibited in any major religion of the world.

Impact on the Environment

Over the last few decades, public concern has grown over the impact of mass red meat production on the environment and climate change. Red meat production leads to large amounts of greenhouse gas emissions, fossil energy, and water use, among other things.

The production of lamb has a larger impact on greenhouse gas emissions when compared to beef production.

The greenhouse gas emission, expressed as CO2 equivalents, for the production of 1kg of lamb is 50, while the same number for beef is 30 (15).

References

  1. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/172622/nutrients
  2. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/746758/nutrients
  3. The effect of pH on beef eating quality
  4. pH values of the fresh different meat types during chilled storage at 2 • C
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2697260/
  6. https://bmcnutr.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s40795-016-0063-9
  7. https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/108/1/33/5036105
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3238465/
  9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31771921/
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4213744/
  11. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/joim.12543
  12. https://www.bmj.com/content/337/bmj.a258
  13. How Meat Is Cooked May Affect Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
  14. https://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/efsajournal/pub/235
  15. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22964113/
Article author photo Victoria Mazmanyan
Education: General Medicine at YSMU
Last updated: October 14, 2021

Infographic

Beef vs Lamb and mutton infographic
Infographic link

Comparison summary table

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

All nutrients comparison - raw data values

Nutrient Beef Lamb and mutton Opinion
Net carbs 0g 0g
Protein 25.93g 24.52g Beef
Fats 15.41g 20.94g Lamb and mutton
Carbs 0g 0g
Calories 250kcal 294kcal Lamb and mutton
Starch g g
Fructose g g
Sugar 0g 0g
Fiber 0g 0g
Calcium 18mg 17mg Beef
Iron 2.6mg 1.88mg Beef
Magnesium 21mg 23mg Lamb and mutton
Phosphorus 198mg 188mg Beef
Potassium 318mg 310mg Beef
Sodium 72mg 72mg
Zinc 6.31mg 4.46mg Beef
Copper 0.085mg 0.119mg Lamb and mutton
Vitamin A 9IU 0IU Beef
Vitamin E 0.12mg 0.14mg Lamb and mutton
Vitamin D 2IU 2IU
Vitamin D 0µg 0.1µg Lamb and mutton
Vitamin C 0mg 0mg
Vitamin B1 0.046mg 0.1mg Lamb and mutton
Vitamin B2 0.176mg 0.25mg Lamb and mutton
Vitamin B3 5.378mg 6.66mg Lamb and mutton
Vitamin B5 0.658mg 0.66mg Lamb and mutton
Vitamin B6 0.382mg 0.13mg Beef
Folate 9µg 18µg Lamb and mutton
Vitamin B12 2.64µg 2.55µg Beef
Vitamin K 1.2µg 4.6µg Lamb and mutton
Tryptophan 0.094mg 0.287mg Lamb and mutton
Threonine 0.72mg 1.05mg Lamb and mutton
Isoleucine 0.822mg 1.183mg Lamb and mutton
Leucine 1.45mg 1.908mg Lamb and mutton
Lysine 1.54mg 2.166mg Lamb and mutton
Methionine 0.478mg 0.629mg Lamb and mutton
Phenylalanine 0.725mg 0.998mg Lamb and mutton
Valine 0.914mg 1.323mg Lamb and mutton
Histidine 0.604mg 0.777mg Lamb and mutton
Cholesterol 88mg 97mg Beef
Trans Fat 0.572g g Lamb and mutton
Saturated Fat 5.895g 8.83g Beef
Monounsaturated Fat 6.668g 8.82g Lamb and mutton
Polyunsaturated fat 0.484g 1.51g Lamb and mutton

Which food is preferable for your diet?

ok
ok
is better in case of low diet
Beef Lamb and mutton
Low Fats diet ok
Low Carbs diet Equal
Low Calories diet ok
Low glycemic index diet Equal

People also compare

Vitamin and Mineral Summary Scores

The summary score is calculated by summing up the daily values contained in 300 grams of the product. Obviously the more the food fulfills human daily needs, the more the summary score is.
Vitamin Summary Score
52
Beef
52
Lamb and mutton
Mineral Summary Score
55
Beef
46
Lamb and mutton

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 food.
Protein
156%
Beef
147%
Lamb and mutton
Carbohydrates
0%
Beef
0%
Lamb and mutton
Fats
71%
Beef
97%
Lamb and mutton

Comparison summary

Which food is richer in vitamins?
Lamb and mutton
Lamb and mutton is relatively richer in vitamins
Which food is lower in Cholesterol?
Beef
Beef is lower in Cholesterol (difference - 9mg)
Which food is lower in Saturated Fat?
Beef
Beef is lower in Saturated Fat (difference - 2.935g)
Which food is cheaper?
Beef
Beef is cheaper (difference - $0.3)
Which food is richer in minerals?
Beef
Beef is relatively richer in minerals
Which food contains less Sugar?
?
The foods are relatively equal in Sugar (0 g)
Which food contains less Sodium?
?
The foods are relatively equal in Sodium (72 mg)
Which food is lower in glycemic index?
?
The foods have equal glycemic indexes (0)

References

The source of all the nutrient values on the page (excluding the main article the sources for which are presented separately if present) is the USDA's FoodCentral. The exact links to the foods presented on this page can be found below.

  1. Beef - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/174032/nutrients
  2. Lamb and mutton - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/172480/nutrients

All the Daily Values are presented for males aged 31-50, for 2000 calorie diets.

Data provided by FoodStruct.com should be considered and used as information only. Please consult your physician before beginning any diet.