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Pork vs. Beef - Is One Better Than The Other?

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Article author photo David Alanakyan by David Alanakyan | Last updated on July 31, 2023
Medically reviewed by Victoria Mazmanyan Article author photo Victoria Mazmanyan
Pork
vs
Beef broiled

Summary

Choosing the right cuts of both foods and not using the processed versions is very important. When comparing good cuts of both, pork appears to be slightly better nutritionally, except beef is richer in vitamin B12, iron, and zinc. 

Beef is consumed two times less in the world overall. It is also drastically more damaging to the environment. 

Various conversations about pork being more “dirty” and full of bacteria seem to have no scientific evidence, assuming it is cooked using the USDA’s recommended temperature. Both pork and beef consumption is safe for children, as well as adults, and can be eaten harmlessly as long as your religious views allow it.

Overall, the answer to the question of which is better depends entirely on what you’re looking for.

Enjoy and share the comparison infographic and in-depth vitamin and mineral comparison below. Pork vs Beef

Introduction

Pork vs. Beef. Which is healthier to eat and in which condition? These are the sort of questions you may ask yourselves at least once in a while. Then you suddenly remember something your grandma kept saying and go with the answer. We decided to dig deeper and explore the differences between pork and beef from a more scientific perspective.

Considerations

Please consider that we are referring to lean meat here. Sausages, bacon, and other processed meat are not considered a subject of comparison in this article. Comparing beef with pork sausage, for instance, might result in conclusions very different from the ones that we’ll have here.

Bans and Religion

Several religions ban the consumption of pig meat altogether. Although there are some mentions of not eating pork in the Christian Bible, the modern church allows its consumption. However, most Jewish communities prohibit it. Jewish dietary law “Kashrut” states that only the animals which chew their cud and have divided hoofs should be eaten by the followers of the religion. Pigs do not satisfy the first condition, which puts them on the blacklist. Thus, pork is not kosher.

Islam has its list of prohibited foods called “Haram” based on a similar approach which puts pork out of the permitted food list. 

On the other hand, beef is a respected creature of God in Hinduism. There are laws in India prohibiting cow slaughtering, which vary by state. Depending on your state, you can go to jail for 6 months up to 10 years if you slaughter a cow in India. 

Pork and Beef in religionNutrition comparison

It’s time to discuss the most interesting and scientific part of the comparison - nutrition. In order to nutritionally compare two foods, we have to fix their states, i.e., cooked or raw, salted or not, etc. We chose these two similar states of beef and pork:

Beef, ground, 85% lean meat / 15% fat, patty, cooked, broiled

Pork, fresh, loin, whole, separable lean and fat, cooked, broiled

The numbers below are presented for 100g servings of these two types of meat. However, one average serving size per person is 3 ounces or 85g for pork and beef.

Both are cooked and broiled, and both contain a similar fat percentage. So with this selection, we have pork winning in 3 important categories; namely, it is somewhat Lower in Saturated Fats, Lower in Cholesterol, and Lower in Sodium. Though the difference is not so big, the winner takes it all anyway. Besides, it is lower in calories and overall fats. Pork’s protein quality is also higher because it contains more of all the essential amino acids.

Protein

Pork contains 1.4g more protein per every 100g serving. As mentioned above, it is richer in all essential amino acids.

Fats

Generally, beef is higher in fats, containing 1.5g more per 100g serving. However, pork is almost 3 times higher in polyunsaturated fats while being somewhat lower in saturated fats and cholesterol.

To sum up, pork has a more favorable fat profile.

Cholesterol

Ground beef with 15% fat has a cholesterol content of 80, while the cholesterol content of fresh pig’s whole loin is 88. The highest cholesterol level in both beef and pork is found in the liver.

However, cholesterol content can vastly differ depending on what part of the meat it is. The highest amount of cholesterol in beef meat is found in a beef brisket with 106mg per 100g. The lowest is found in strip steak (58mg per 100g). 

Ground pork with 28% fat has 100mg of cholesterol per 100g. Pulled pork contains only 35mg of cholesterol in a 100g serving.

While it all depends on the type of meat, pork generally tends to have lower cholesterol levels than beef.

Vitamins comparison

Let’s move to vitamins now. Pork is drastically (19 times) richer in vitamin B1 and fairly (2 times) richer in vitamins B2 and E. 

Considered very important lately, vitamin D is completely absent from beef, while pork provides 13% of the daily value in just 100 grams. Pork is also somewhat higher in vitamin B6.

On the other hand, beef is radically higher in vitamin B12 (nearly 4 times). A 100g serving of beef entirely covers the daily needed amount of intake for this vitamin. The same serving of pork only covers 30%.

Beef also contains vitamin K, which pork lacks, and is higher in vitamin B9 or folate and vitamin A.

 Comparing vitamins of pork and beef

Minerals comparison

What about minerals? Here we have a slightly different picture. Beef is almost 3 times higher in iron and zinc. Pork is slightly richer in selenium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, and choline, while beef beats pork in copper and manganese content.

Pork is also somewhat lower in sodium.

 Comparing vitamins of pork and beef


 

Thus, the nutrition comparison summary is, in a way, on the side of pork, except for when it comes to vitamin B12. In any case, it’s definite that it is not worse by the results of surface nutritional analysis.

Which is safer for babies?

Actually, many forums still recommend not giving pork to children at the age when they can freely eat beef. Other blogs insist it is at least as healthy as beef and recommend it for babies as early as 7 or 8 months old. 

Looking at the most official source - USDA’s recommendations for babies we can see that both foods are listed together without any reservations and warnings, and both are safe to eat starting from the same age.

What makes some think Pork is bad?

What makes some people think that pork is evil, then? Why is it prohibited in many religions, and why many of us do not give it to our children for a long time? There are various statements that some resources keep stating. Please find the more common ones below.

  1. While talking about meat, some refer to processed pork, such as sausages, bacon, or salami.

Many processed forms of red meat may really be dangerous for health, but we are not discussing them now and are talking about lean pork such as tenderloin, sirloin chops, or top loin chops (1).

  1. Does pork contain more bacteria, viruses, toxins, or parasites?

As we all know, most harmful microbes die if you cook meat at a high enough temperature. For this reason, the USDA has defined its recommended temperatures for cooking various types of meat.

More importantly, the recommended temperature is the same for both foods. It’s 145 °F for beef and pork and 160°F for ground meat. So whatever microbes these types of red meat may initially carry, they die at the same temperature, according to scientists.

  1. The pig is a dirty animal and eats whatever it wants.

This partially depends on how the cow, the pig, or the chicken are handled on what they are being fed. Grass-fed beef can significantly differ from not grass-fed beef, which is a topic for a future article. We should always consider how the animal was kept and fed, regardless of the type of meat.

Consumption comparison

Not seeing any scientific evidence in the old religious customs, we can go on with our analysis and look at the usage statistics. 

The USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service data states that pork consumption globally is twice as big as beef consumption. However, looking at the numbers in the US separately reveals approximately equal results, with beef being ahead by a small amount. 

Pork seems to be popular in states like China, European Union, Taiwan, South Korea, Montenegro, and Vietnam. Beef is extremely popular in Uruguay and Argentina, followed by Paraguay, the United States, and Brazil. Among the countries with low pork consumption are India, Nigeria, the Philippines, Thailand, and Iran. (the data we are referring to is for the year 2015) (2). 

World Meat Consumption

Environment impact

The National Academy of Sciences published a study in February 2014 which revealed that beef is highly damaging to the environment. The study compared the environmental cost spent to feed and raise animals that are used as protein sources for humans. 

This research showed that cows need around 28 times more land than pork or poultry, require 11 times more irrigation, produce much more greenhouse gas, and consume a lot more nitrogen. To summarize, beef production is 10 times more damaging to the environment than any other protein source (3).

Sources

  1. https://www.who.int/news-room/questions-and-answers/item/cancer-carcinogenicity-of-the-consumption-of-red-meat-and-processed-meat
  2. USDA - FAS Production, Supply, and Distribution Online Database - https://apps.fas.usda.gov/opendataweb/home 
  3. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/264408978
Article author photo David Alanakyan
Education: Foodstruct Founder
Last updated: July 31, 2023
Medically reviewed by Victoria Mazmanyan

Infographic

Pork vs Beef broiled infographic
Infographic link

Mineral Comparison

Mineral comparison score is based on the number of minerals by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" charts below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food.
Contains more Magnesium +33.3%
Contains more Phosphorus +24.2%
Contains more Potassium +33%
Contains less Sodium -13.9%
Contains more Selenium +110.7%
Contains more Iron +198.9%
Contains more Zinc +164%
Contains more Copper +16.4%
Contains more Manganese +33.3%
Equal in Calcium - 18
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper Manganese Selenium 6% 33% 20% 106% 38% 9% 66% 25% 2% 248%
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper Manganese Selenium 6% 98% 15% 85% 29% 10% 173% 29% 2% 118%
Contains more Magnesium +33.3%
Contains more Phosphorus +24.2%
Contains more Potassium +33%
Contains less Sodium -13.9%
Contains more Selenium +110.7%
Contains more Iron +198.9%
Contains more Zinc +164%
Contains more Copper +16.4%
Contains more Manganese +33.3%
Equal in Calcium - 18

Vitamin Comparison

Vitamin comparison score is based on the number of vitamins by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" charts below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food.
Pork
8
:
Contains more Vitamin E +141.7%
Contains more Vitamin D +∞%
Contains more Vitamin C +∞%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +1806.5%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +82.4%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +21.5%
Contains more Choline +14%
Contains more Vitamin A +28.6%
Contains more Folate +80%
Contains more Vitamin B12 +277.1%
Contains more Vitamin K +∞%
Equal in Vitamin B3 - 5.378
Equal in Vitamin B5 - 0.658
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Choline Vitamin K 1% 6% 39% 2% 220% 75% 95% 42% 108% 4% 88% 52% 0%
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Choline Vitamin K 1% 3% 0% 0% 12% 41% 101% 40% 89% 7% 331% 45% 3%
Contains more Vitamin E +141.7%
Contains more Vitamin D +∞%
Contains more Vitamin C +∞%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +1806.5%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +82.4%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +21.5%
Contains more Choline +14%
Contains more Vitamin A +28.6%
Contains more Folate +80%
Contains more Vitamin B12 +277.1%
Contains more Vitamin K +∞%
Equal in Vitamin B3 - 5.378
Equal in Vitamin B5 - 0.658

Macronutrient Comparison

Macronutrient breakdown side-by-side comparison
Contains more Other +30.9%
Contains more Fats +10.7%
Equal in Protein - 25.93
Equal in Water - 57.98
27% 14% 58%
Protein: 27.32 g
Fats: 13.92 g
Carbs: 0 g
Water: 57.87 g
Other: 0.89 g
26% 15% 58%
Protein: 25.93 g
Fats: 15.41 g
Carbs: 0 g
Water: 57.98 g
Other: 0.68 g
Contains more Other +30.9%
Contains more Fats +10.7%
Equal in Protein - 25.93
Equal in Water - 57.98

Fat Type Comparison

Fat type breakdown side-by-side comparison
Contains less Saturated Fat -11.3%
Contains more Polyunsaturated fat +147.9%
Equal in Monounsaturated Fat - 6.668
41% 49% 10%
Saturated Fat: 5.23 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 6.19 g
Polyunsaturated fat: 1.2 g
45% 51% 4%
Saturated Fat: 5.895 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 6.668 g
Polyunsaturated fat: 0.484 g
Contains less Saturated Fat -11.3%
Contains more Polyunsaturated fat +147.9%
Equal in Monounsaturated Fat - 6.668

Comparison summary table

Pay attention to the rightmost column. It displays the amounts side by side, giving a clearer understanding of the difference.
Pork Beef broiled
Lower in Sodium ok
Lower in Cholesterol ok
Lower in Saturated Fat ok
Lower in price ok
Lower in Sugar Equal
Lower in Glycemic Index Equal
Rich in minerals Equal
Rich in vitamins Equal

All nutrients comparison - raw data values

Nutrient Pork Beef broiled Opinion
Protein 27.32g 25.93g Pork
Fats 13.92g 15.41g Beef broiled
Calories 242kcal 250kcal Beef broiled
Calcium 19mg 18mg Pork
Iron 0.87mg 2.6mg Beef broiled
Magnesium 28mg 21mg Pork
Phosphorus 246mg 198mg Pork
Potassium 423mg 318mg Pork
Sodium 62mg 72mg Pork
Zinc 2.39mg 6.31mg Beef broiled
Copper 0.073mg 0.085mg Beef broiled
Manganese 0.009mg 0.012mg Beef broiled
Selenium 45.3µg 21.5µg Pork
Vitamin A 7IU 9IU Beef broiled
Vitamin A RAE 2µg 3µg Beef broiled
Vitamin E 0.29mg 0.12mg Pork
Vitamin D 53IU 2IU Pork
Vitamin D 1.3µg 0µg Pork
Vitamin C 0.6mg 0mg Pork
Vitamin B1 0.877mg 0.046mg Pork
Vitamin B2 0.321mg 0.176mg Pork
Vitamin B3 5.037mg 5.378mg Beef broiled
Vitamin B5 0.698mg 0.658mg Pork
Vitamin B6 0.464mg 0.382mg Pork
Folate 5µg 9µg Beef broiled
Vitamin B12 0.7µg 2.64µg Beef broiled
Choline 93.9mg 82.4mg Pork
Vitamin K 0µg 1.2µg Beef broiled
Tryptophan 0.338mg 0.094mg Pork
Threonine 1.234mg 0.72mg Pork
Isoleucine 1.26mg 0.822mg Pork
Leucine 2.177mg 1.45mg Pork
Lysine 2.446mg 1.54mg Pork
Methionine 0.712mg 0.478mg Pork
Phenylalanine 1.086mg 0.725mg Pork
Valine 1.473mg 0.914mg Pork
Histidine 1.067mg 0.604mg Pork
Cholesterol 80mg 88mg Pork
Trans Fat 0.572g Pork
Saturated Fat 5.23g 5.895g Pork
Omega-3 - DHA 0g 0.001g Beef broiled
Omega-3 - EPA 0g 0.003g Beef broiled
Omega-3 - DPA 0g 0.016g Beef broiled
Monounsaturated Fat 6.19g 6.668g Beef broiled
Polyunsaturated fat 1.2g 0.484g Pork
Omega-6 - Gamma-linoleic acid 0.012g Beef broiled
Omega-3 - ALA 0.044g Beef broiled

Which food is preferable for your diet?

ok
ok
is better in case of low diet
Pork Beef broiled
Low Fats diet ok
Low Carbs diet Equal
Low Calories diet ok
Low Glycemic Index diet Equal

Vitamins & Minerals Daily Need Coverage Score

The summary scores indicate the extent to which this food can fulfill your daily vitamin and mineral requirements if you consume 3 servings, consisting of 100 grams of each (an approximation of 3 serving sizes).
Vitamins Daily Need Coverage Score
56%
Pork
51%
Beef broiled
Minerals Daily Need Coverage Score
55%
Pork
56%
Beef broiled

Comparison summary

Which food contains less Sodium?
Pork
Pork contains less Sodium (difference - 10mg)
Which food is lower in Cholesterol?
Pork
Pork is lower in Cholesterol (difference - 8mg)
Which food is lower in Saturated Fat?
Pork
Pork is lower in Saturated Fat (difference - 0.665g)
Which food is cheaper?
Pork
Pork is cheaper (difference - $1.2)
Which food contains less Sugar?
?
The foods are relatively equal in Sugar (0 g)
Which food is lower in glycemic index?
?
The foods have equal glycemic indexes (0)
Which food is richer in minerals?
?
It cannot be stated which food is richer in vitamins. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information.
Which food is richer in vitamins?
?
It cannot be stated which food is richer in vitamins. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information.

References

All the values for which the sources are not specified explicitly are taken from FDA’s Food Central. The exact link to the food presented on this page can be found below.

  1. Pork - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/167820/nutrients
  2. Beef broiled - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/174032/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.