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Pork vs Chicken meat - Health impact and Nutrition Comparison

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Article author photo Victoria Mazmanyan by Victoria Mazmanyan | Last updated on February 04, 2021
Education: General Medicine at YSMU
Pork
vs
Chicken meat

Summary

Pork and chicken have similar macronutrient compositions; however, pork is slightly higher in calories, protein, and fats. Pork is also overall richer in vitamins and minerals, containing larger amounts of vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamins B1, B2, and B12, calcium potassium, phosphorus, and zinc. On the other hand, chicken is richer in vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamins B3 and B5, and iron.

Even though pork may be nutritionally superior, pork is red meat, while chicken meat is white. Due to this, pork tends to have a bigger negative impact on health compared to chicken.

Introduction

Pork and chicken are two of the most commonly consumed meats in the world. The choice of pork or chicken often comes up when ordering a meal or planning dinner. In this article, we will talk about what sets these meats apart and what they have in common, with the main focus on health and nutrition.

Classification

Pork is classified as red meat due to its high content of myoglobin. Chicken, on the other hand, is poultry and is classified as white meat.

According to the USDA, chickens can be classified into four groups: Cornish game hen, broiler-fryer, roaster, and capon (1). The two main differentiating factors between these groups are the chicken’s age and weight.

Appearance

Based on the classification, one of the defining differences of these meats becomes apparent. Chicken meat is usually light pink, while pork is darker in color.

Pork meat has recognizable marbling: visible white wavy lines of intramuscular fat. Chicken meat sometimes also has intramuscular fat called white striping; however, it is less apparent and less common.

Taste and Use

The taste of pork can differ based on its cut. In general, it is described to be fatty and salty. Chicken is described to have a more tender and soft texture.

Chicken and pork can be used in similar ways in the kitchen. Both of these meats can be grilled, broiled, baked, braised, and much more.

Bans and Religion

While chicken consumption is not prohibited by any major religious laws, pork intake is different.

According to orthodox Jewish dietary laws, pork meat is not a kosher food, meaning its consumption is forbidden. Similarly, it is also prohibited by Islamic dietary laws.

Types of Meat

Both pork and chicken meat can be produced as processed or fresh meat. Processed meat is defined as meat preserved by smoking, curing, salting, or adding chemical preservatives (2).

Based on the cut of pork, there are different varieties of this meat. The four primal cuts of pork are the shoulder (the butt and the picnic), the leg or ham, the loin, and the belly or side.

The chicken meat is mainly divided into three parts: the breast, the leg, and the wing. Breast meat is the most commonly used part of the chicken, and it is also the lightest in color.

Based on the cut and production method, each type of meat has slightly varying nutritional and biological properties.

Nutrition

For this article, we are looking at the nutritional values of a whole, broiled pork loin and roasted broiler-fryer chicken with skin.

Macronutrients and Calories

Pork and chicken have very similar macronutrient compositions. However, pork is a little denser in nutrients containing 58% water, while chicken consists of 60% water.

One average serving size of pork weighs 85g. Chicken’s serving size is much larger - 140g or one cup of diced chicken.

Calories

Chicken and pork are both high-calorie foods, containing nearly the same amount of calories. A hundred gram serving of pork contains 242 calories, while chicken has 239.

Protein and Fats

Pork and chicken are similar in these macronutrients as well.

Both of these meats contain 27g of protein per 100g serving. Both are also very rich in all essential amino acids. Pork contains slightly higher levels of all those amino acids, except for isoleucine and methionine.

Pork is slightly higher in fats. However, chicken contains larger amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acids, while pork is richer in monounsaturated and saturated fats.

Pork is lower in cholesterol.

Carbohydrates

Like most meats, both chicken and pork contain no notable amount of carbohydrates.

Vitamins

Overall, pork is a little richer in vitamins, containing more of vitamin B1, vitamin B12, vitamins B2 and B6, and vitamin E. Pork also contains vitamin C and vitamin D, which chicken lacks entirely.

On the other hand, chicken is richer in vitamin A, vitamin B3, and vitamin B5. One vitamin found in chicken that pork completely lacks is vitamin K.

Pork and chicken contain the same amount of folate form of vitamin B9.

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
Pork
7
:
Contains more Vitamin D +∞%
Contains more Vitamin C +∞%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +1292.1%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +91.1%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +16%
Contains more Vitamin B12 +133.3%
Contains more Vitamin A +2200%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +68.5%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +47.6%
Contains more Vitamin K +∞%
Equal in Vitamin E - 0.27
Equal in Folate - 5
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Vitamin K 1% 6% 39% 2% 220% 75% 95% 42% 108% 4% 88% 0%
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Vitamin K 10% 6% 0% 0% 16% 39% 160% 62% 93% 4% 38% 6%
Contains more Vitamin D +∞%
Contains more Vitamin C +∞%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +1292.1%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +91.1%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +16%
Contains more Vitamin B12 +133.3%
Contains more Vitamin A +2200%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +68.5%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +47.6%
Contains more Vitamin K +∞%
Equal in Vitamin E - 0.27
Equal in Folate - 5

Minerals

Pork is the clear winner in this category, being higher in potassium, phosphorus, calcium, zinc, magnesium, selenium, copper, and choline. Pork also contains less sodium.

However, chicken is richer in iron and manganese.

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 Calcium +26.7%
Contains more Magnesium +21.7%
Contains more Phosphorus +35.2%
Contains more Potassium +89.7%
Contains less Sodium -24.4%
Contains more Zinc +23.2%
Contains more Copper +10.6%
Contains more Iron +44.8%
Equal in Copper - 0.066
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper 6% 33% 20% 106% 38% 9% 66% 25%
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper 5% 48% 17% 78% 20% 11% 53% 22%
Contains more Calcium +26.7%
Contains more Magnesium +21.7%
Contains more Phosphorus +35.2%
Contains more Potassium +89.7%
Contains less Sodium -24.4%
Contains more Zinc +23.2%
Contains more Copper +10.6%
Contains more Iron +44.8%
Equal in Copper - 0.066

Glycemic Index

Based on the fact that pork and chicken contain almost no carbohydrates, the glycemic index of these foods is considered to be 0.

Acidity

The standard pH value for fresh chicken meat falls in the range of 5.3 to 6.5, making chicken a slightly acidic food (3).

Regular pork also has an acidic pH value of 5.6 to 5.7. Pork meat with a higher pH value may be dark, firm, and dry (4).

Another way of evaluating the acidity of foods is the potential renal acid load or PRAL. The PRAL values demonstrate how much acid or base the food produces inside the organism.

The PRAL values for pork and chicken are 12.6 and 14.6, respectively. The higher this number, the more acidic the food is.

Weight Loss & Diets

Chicken and pork are both high-calorie foods; however, pork is slightly higher in calories.

These meats fit well in both low-carb and low glycemic index diets as they contain no carbohydrates.

Despite the high-calorie count, pork and chicken may have potential use in weight loss diets, as the high protein and fat content leads to high satiety and energy expenditure.

There is some evidence, however limited, showing pork intake to have a positive impact on waist circumference (5).

Regular consumption of lean fresh pork has also been studied to relatively reduce weight, body mass index, waist circumference, percentage of body fat, fat mass, and abdominal fat (6).

Among children, a higher meat consumption, including pork and chicken, has been associated with lower levels of body mass index, as well as systolic and diastolic blood pressures (7).

Poultry meat intake, along with vegetables, has been correlated with a reduced risk of developing obesity and obesity-related diseases (8).

While fresh pork and chicken may have beneficial effects as part of a balanced diet, processed meats can have a negative impact on metabolism (5).

Health Impact

Opinions about the health benefits of meat consumption are often contrary. In this section, we will look into scientifically founded information about the health impact of chicken and pork intake.

Health Benefits

Cardiovascular Health

Regular intake of fresh lean pork can improve body composition without negatively affecting risk factors for cardiometabolic disease (6).

Poultry, such as chicken, may not have a beneficial effect on cardiovascular health, but the National Heart Foundation of Australia concluded that there is not enough strong evidence for recommending a limit on the intake level (9).

Diabetes

Substitution of red meat with poultry, such as chicken, decreases the risk of developing type 2 and gestational diabetes, also improving glycemic control and cardiovascular risk factors (10).

The limited evidence about pork intake and diabetes has suggested a possible negative impact of processed pork on glucose and insulin metabolism and a possible positive impact of pork intake on waist circumference and high-density cholesterol, also known as “good” cholesterol (5).

Chicken may serve as a source of protein for patients with type 2 diabetes and renal dysfunction (11).

Cancer

In one study, increased white meat intake and equally decreased red meat intake has been correlated with significantly reduced risk of cancer of the esophagus, liver, colon, rectum, anus, lung, and pleura. This inverse association may be largely due to the substitution of red meat (12).

Downsides and Risks

Overall, various studies have demonstrated red and processed meat intake to be correlated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and all-cause mortality (13).

Cardiovascular Health

Substituting red meats with high-quality plant foods, such as legumes,  nuts, or soy, as well as whole grains or dairy, might potentially reduce the risk of coronary heart disease (14).

Red meat intake has been studied to increase low-density lipoprotein levels, also known as “bad” cholesterol, in the blood (2).

The dietary heme iron found in red meat has also been associated with cardiovascular diseases, such as myocardial infarction and fatal coronary heart disease, potentially due to the additional oxidative stress (14).

A study has concluded that a higher intake of processed meat, unprocessed red meat, and poultry is significantly associated with a small increased risk of cardiovascular diseases. Higher consumption of processed meat, unprocessed red meat, but not poultry is associated with an increased risk of all-cause mortality (15).

Diabetes

A study has found red meats, but not poultry, intake to be positively associated with increased diabetes risk (16).

In contrast to the previous statement, another research has concluded that both red meat and poultry consumption were associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes (17)

The cooking method also plays a role in the increased risk of diabetes due to meat consumption. High-heat cooking of meats, such as grilling and barbecuing, has a bigger negative impact on health when compared to moderate-temperature cooking, such as stir-frying, boiling, steaming, or sauteing (18).

Cancer

Both red and processed meat has been studied to have undesirable effects relating to oncological conditions. Red meat consumption has been associated with an increased risk of colorectal, nasopharyngeal, lung, and pancreas, as well as breast and prostate cancer (18, 19). In addition to those, processed meat might also increase the risk of esophageal (squamous cell carcinoma) and stomach cancer (non-cardia) (18).

There are potential positive associations between poultry intake and the risk of prostate cancer and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (19).

References

  1. Poultry Classifications Get a 21st Century Upgrade
  2. https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.118.035225
  3. https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1755-1315/102/1/012051/pdf
  4. http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/livestock/swine/facts/info_qs_meatph.htm
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3792009/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3407990/
  7. https://nutritionj.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12937-017-0252-7
  8. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/322959346
  9. Animal sourced protein (meat and poultry) and heart health
  10. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/322959346
  11. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11919119/
  12. https://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/43/2/265
  13. https://www.bmj.com/content/371/bmj.m4141
  14. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/2759737
  15. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00125-020-05091-x
  16. https://academic.oup.com/aje/article/186/7/824/3848997
  17. How Meat Is Cooked May Affect Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
  18. https://www.wcrf.org/dietandcancer/exposures/meat-fish-dairy
  19. https://jech.bmj.com/content/73/Suppl_1/A15.1
Article author photo Victoria Mazmanyan
Education: General Medicine at YSMU
Last updated: February 04, 2021

Infographic

Pork vs Chicken meat 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.
Pork Chicken meat
Lower in Sodium ok
Lower in Cholesterol ok
Lower in price ok
Rich in minerals ok
Lower in Saturated Fat ok
Lower in Sugar Equal
Lower in glycemic index Equal
Rich in vitamins Equal

All nutrients comparison - raw data values

Nutrient Pork Chicken meat Opinion
Net carbs 0g 0g
Protein 27.32g 27.3g Pork
Fats 13.92g 13.6g Pork
Carbs 0g 0g
Calories 242kcal 239kcal Pork
Starch g g
Fructose g g
Sugar 0g 0g
Fiber 0g 0g
Calcium 19mg 15mg Pork
Iron 0.87mg 1.26mg Chicken meat
Magnesium 28mg 23mg Pork
Phosphorus 246mg 182mg Pork
Potassium 423mg 223mg Pork
Sodium 62mg 82mg Pork
Zinc 2.39mg 1.94mg Pork
Copper 0.073mg 0.066mg Pork
Vitamin A 7IU 161IU Chicken meat
Vitamin E 0.29mg 0.27mg Pork
Vitamin D 53IU 2IU Pork
Vitamin D 1.3µg 0µg Pork
Vitamin C 0.6mg 0mg Pork
Vitamin B1 0.877mg 0.063mg Pork
Vitamin B2 0.321mg 0.168mg Pork
Vitamin B3 5.037mg 8.487mg Chicken meat
Vitamin B5 0.698mg 1.03mg Chicken meat
Vitamin B6 0.464mg 0.4mg Pork
Folate 5µg 5µg
Vitamin B12 0.7µg 0.3µg Pork
Vitamin K 0µg 2.4µg Chicken meat
Tryptophan 0.338mg 0.305mg Pork
Threonine 1.234mg 1.128mg Pork
Isoleucine 1.26mg 1.362mg Chicken meat
Leucine 2.177mg 1.986mg Pork
Lysine 2.446mg 2.223mg Pork
Methionine 0.712mg 0.726mg Chicken meat
Phenylalanine 1.086mg 1.061mg Pork
Valine 1.473mg 1.325mg Pork
Histidine 1.067mg 0.802mg Pork
Cholesterol 80mg 88mg Pork
Trans Fat g g
Saturated Fat 5.23g 3.79g Chicken meat
Monounsaturated Fat 6.19g 5.34g Pork
Polyunsaturated fat 1.2g 2.97g Chicken meat

Which food is preferable for your diet?

ok
ok
is better in case of low diet
Pork Chicken meat
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
56
Pork
36
Chicken meat
Mineral Summary Score
37
Pork
31
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 food.
Protein
164%
Pork
164%
Chicken meat
Carbohydrates
0%
Pork
0%
Chicken meat
Fats
64%
Pork
63%
Chicken meat

Comparison summary

Which food contains less Sodium?
Pork
Pork contains less Sodium (difference - 20mg)
Which food is lower in Cholesterol?
Pork
Pork is lower in Cholesterol (difference - 8mg)
Which food is cheaper?
Pork
Pork is cheaper (difference - $0.2)
Which food is richer in minerals?
Pork
Pork is relatively richer in minerals
Which food is lower in Saturated Fat?
Chicken meat
Chicken meat is lower in Saturated Fat (difference - 1.44g)
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 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

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. Pork - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/167820/nutrients
  2. Chicken meat - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/171450/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.