Beef vs Veal - Health impact and Nutrition Comparison
Humans have been consuming the meat of cattle from prehistoric times. Cattle have been domesticated in around 8500 BC, mainly due to the multitude of useful products they could provide humans with.
Today, bovine meat is among the most consumed meats in the world. This article will look at the two main types of bovine meats, comparing their nutritional values and health impacts, to see which meat is the better choice.
Veal is the meat of calves: young domestic cows or bulls. Beef, on the other hand, is produced from older cattle.
Both veal and beef can be produced from either sex of the cattle. However, veal is commonly cut from the meat of young males of dairy cows, while most beef comes from young heifers and steers. Heifers are immature females and steers are young castrated males.
Beef and veal are classified as red meats, due to the high levels of myoglobin and, therefore, the iron bound with it.
While veal and beef are both red meats, beef is significantly darker in colour. Because of the high myoglobin content, beef is also higher in iron.
Taste and Use
Veal, notably, has a more tender texture and a more delicate taste. Veal is also easier to digest when compared to beef.
Cattle meat is very versatile and is used in staple dishes from numerous cultures. Veal and beef can be cooked by grilling, barbecuing, broiling, roasting, frying and many other ways.
According to the general market value of meats, beef is slightly cheaper.
Based on the cut of the meat, both veal and beef can be called the chuck (shoulder), the brisket and shank (breast), the rib, the sirloin (hip), the short loin, the short plate, the flake and the round. These different cuts have varying culinary characteristics and are used according to those qualities.
Based on the conditions in which the cows have been kept, veal can be formula-fed, also known as milk-fed or white, non-formula fed, also known as red, pasture-raised or free-raised and bob veal. Bob veal is the meat of the calf, slaughtered at less than one month old.
Beef can also be grass-fed or organic.
The nutritional values below are presented for broiled ground veal and broiled patty beef, consisting 85% of lean meat and 15% of fat.
Macronutrients and Calories
Beef is overall more dense in nutrients, as it consists of only 58% water, whereas veal contains 67% water.
Both of these meats are high-calorie foods, however, beef is significantly higher in calories. One hundred grams of beef contains 250 calories, while the same amount of veal has 172 calories.
Fats and Cholesterol
Beef contains almost twice the amount of fats found in veal.
The fat content of beef and veal is similar. Nevertheless, veal is a little higher in polyunsaturated fatty acids, while beef contains more monounsaturated and saturated fats.
Veal is higher in cholesterol.
Protein and Carbohydrates
Beef is a little richer in protein, however, veal contains a significantly higher amount of all essential amino acids. Therefore, the quality of protein from veal is more favourable.
Like most meats, beef and veal contain no notable amount of carbohydrates.
Overall, veal is richer in most vitamins, providing more vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5 and folate or vitamin B9. Veal is also higher in vitamin E.
At the same time, beef contains vitamin A, which veal lacks completely. Beef also provides over twice the amount of vitamin B12, when compared to veal.
Beef and veal contain similar amounts of vitamin B6 and vitamin K.
Both of these meats are absent in vitamin C and vitamin D.
Veal and beef are packed in minerals in different amounts.
Beef is significantly higher in iron, zinc and selenium when compared to veal. Beef is also a little lower in sodium.
Veal, on the other hand, contains larger amounts of magnesium, copper, manganese, phosphorus and choline.
Veal and beef contain nearly the same levels of calcium and potassium.
As beef and veal both do not contain carbohydrates, their glycemic index is considered to be 0. You can read more about the glycemic index of foods with no carbohydrates here.
The acidity of meat is higher immediately after the slaughter and starts to steadily fall while the meat ages.
The acceptable range of the pH value for beef falls between 5.3 to 5.7, making beef acidic (1). Once the pH value of beef reaches 6.5, it starts to decompose.
The pH values for veal are similarly acidic, ranging from 5.5 to 6.1, depending on the level of maturity (2).
The potential renal acid load values for veal and beef are 12.1 and 12.6 respectively. The PRAL value demonstrates how much acid or base the given food produces inside the body. The higher this positive number, the more acid-producing the food.
Weight Loss & Diets
Most meats, including beef and veal, are high in calories. Beef contains 78 more calories per every hundred gram serving compared to veal.
Between these two types of meats, veal is the better choice for low calorie and low fats diets. They both fit well into low carb and low glycemic index diets.
Various studies have concluded that meat intake, especially processed meats, lead to an increased risk of weight gain and obesity prevalence (3, 4, 5).
Contrastingly, another study suggested that high-protein, low-fat diets can be effective in decreasing weight, with a rich or restricted intake of lean beef as red meat (6).
In weight loss diets lean, unprocessed meats are advised to be chosen over fatty and processed meats (7).
Now that we have looked at the nutritional differences between beef and veal, we will look at what effects these two types of meats have on health.
Low in saturated fats, lean beef can have a favourable effect on cardiovascular disease lipid risk factors, decreasing total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein levels (8). Being lower in fats, veal is also lower in saturated fatty acids.
One study has shown that a healthy diet high in protein, with or without red meat, may improve cardiometabolic disease risk factors (7).
A diet, low in calories and high in protein from lean red meats, has been studied to improve risk markers of type 2 diabetes mellitus (9).
Downsides and Risks
Despite the previous findings, research has shown that consumption of unprocessed, and especially processed red meat leads to a small increased risk of cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality (10). Substitution of protein from soy, nuts and legumes, instead of red meat has been associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease (11).
These negative effects are said to be caused by a chemical found in the blood after eating red meat, called trimethylamine N-oxide or TMAO (12)
Similarly, unprocessed and particularly processed red meat has been correlated with a higher risk of diabetes. This risk may be partly due to the contents of heme iron and dietary cholesterol found in red meat (13). As veal is lower in both heme iron and dietary cholesterol, it can be assumed that veal is the better choice between these two kinds of meat for people with prediabetes or diabetic conditions.
Consumption of red meats, processed red meat, in particular, has long been associated with an increased risk of several types of cancer.
Total red meat intake increases the risk of colorectal, nasopharynx, lung, pancreas, breast and prostate cancer (14, 15, 16).
In addition, processed red meat also elevates the risk of squamous cell carcinoma of the oesophagus and non-cardia stomach cancer (14).
In conclusion, beef is higher in calories, protein and fats, however, veal has a more favourable protein and fat quality. Beef is lower in cholesterol.
Veal is richer in most B group vitamins except for vitamin B12, which beef has more of. Beef is also higher in iron and zinc.
The negative effects of red meat are attributed to the high levels of saturated fats, cholesterol and heme iron. Veal, being lower in all of these, can be assumed to be the healthier choice.
Vitamin and Mineral Summary Scores
Comparison summary table
|Lower in Saturated Fat|
|Rich in vitamins|
|Lower in Cholesterol|
|Lower in Sodium|
|Lower in price|
|Lower in Sugar||Equal|
|Lower in glycemic index||Equal|
|Rich in minerals||Equal|
Which food is preferable for your diet?
|Low Calories diet|
|Low Fats diet|
|Low Carbs diet||Equal|
|Low glycemic index diet||Equal|
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All nutrients comparison - raw data values