Turkey vs. Pork – Is One Better?
Pork contains almost twice as much fat as turkey meat. Turkey is slightly higher in protein.
Turkey meat is 5.6 richer in vitamin A and almost 2 times richer in vitamin B3. It is also richer in vitamins B5, B6, folate or B9, and B12, iron, and copper. Pork is 19.5 times richer in vitamin B1, 3.5 times richer in vitamin D and vitamin E, as well as vitamin B2, calcium, potassium, and phosphorus.
The darker the meat is, the more saturated fats and heme iron it contains, leading to mostly adverse impacts on health. So, turkey meat has a less negative impact on health than pork.
Table of contents
- Macronutrients and Calories
- Glycemic Index
- Weight Loss & Diets
- Health Impact
- Health Benefits
- Downsides and Risks
The safety, value, and, more importantly, the quality of the food make people hesitate to choose one or the other food. Turkey meat and pork are commonly consumed meats. This article demonstrates their differences and what they have in common and discusses their nutrition and impact on health.
The main difference between pork and turkey is based on their myoglobin content. Myoglobin is the iron-containing protein that gives meat it's distinct coloring. The higher the myoglobin content, the darker the meat.
Taste and Use
Surprisingly, one study has found that turkey tastes more like pork than chicken. The attributes closely related to each other are its brothy, fatty, salty, sweet, and umami taste (1).
The best pork to look for can be described as greyish pink in color, firm and fine-grained, well-marbled, and covered with an outer layer of firm white fat.
Turkey can be used in a wide range of dishes, including roasted turkey, turkey burgers, turkey sausage, turkey chili, and turkey sandwiches.
Pork can also be prepared using different cooking methods like roasting, grilling, braising, or frying, allowing for a wide range of culinary possibilities.
While pork bacon is one of the most popular types of meat, turkey bacon has been gaining more popularity in recent years.
Both turkey meat and pork can be produced as processed or fresh meat. Processed meat has a significantly different impact on health when compared to fresh meat.
The different varieties of turkeys are based on their age and are as follows.
- Fryer-Roaster Turkey: a young, immature turkey, usually less than 12 weeks of age.
- Young Turkey: a turkey usually less than six months of age.
- Yearling Turkey: a fully matured turkey, usually less than 15 months of age.
- Mature or Old (Hen or Tom) Turkey: an adult turkey, usually more than 15 months of age (2).
Pork varieties are based on the cut. There are four primal cuts of pork: the shoulder, the leg or ham, the loin, and the belly or the side.
The nutritional values are described for 100g servings of whole, roasted turkey meat with skin and whole, broiled pork loin.
Macronutrients and Calories
Pork is almost 2 times higher in fats, whereas turkey meat is slightly higher in protein. Both are naturally absent in carbohydrates.
Pork contains 58% water, whereas turkey meat contains 63.5%. Thus, pork is somewhat nutritionally denser.
Both turkey meat and pork have the same average serving size of 85g.
Both of the meats are high-calorie foods. However, turkey provides fewer calories compared to pork.
A hundred grams serving of pork provides 242 calories; meanwhile, turkey meat provides 189 calories.
Both types of meat are almost equally high in protein: turkey meat contains 28.55g of protein, whereas pork contains 27.32g.
Meat is an excellent source of protein in the diet. Turkey meat falls in the top 6% of foods as a source of this nutrient.
The difference between the amounts of essential amino acids is also minimal. That being said, surprisingly, pork is slightly higher in most essential amino acids than turkey meat.
Fats and Cholesterol
The fat content of pork is almost 2 times higher than that of turkey meat: turkey contains 7.4g of fats, while pork contains 13.9g.
Pork is much richer in monounsaturated and saturated fats, while turkey meat contains almost 2 times more polyunsaturated fats.
Fat Type Comparison
Pork is lower in cholesterol. A 100g serving of turkey and pork contains 109 and 80mg of cholesterol, respectively.
Like other types of meat, unprocessed turkey and pork contain no carbohydrates.
Turkey meat is richer in most B complex vitamins - B3, B5, B6, B9 or folate and B12. However, this doesn’t apply to vitamin B2 and especially vitamin B1 or thiamine, which are higher in pork. Turkey is also richer in vitamins A and D.
To be precise, turkey provides 6 times more vitamin A and 1.5 times more vitamin B12.
However, pork is 3 times richer in fat-soluble vitamin D and vitamin E.
Turkey meat is absent in vitamins K and C. Pork is absent only in vitamin K.
These foods contain similar amounts of minerals.
Pork is significantly higher in potassium, as well as calcium, phosphorus, and selenium, compared to turkey meat.
Turkey meat is richer in iron, copper, and manganese. Turkey also has a high level of sodium.
Both of these meats contain almost equal amounts of magnesium and zinc.
Both turkey meat and pork contain no carbohydrates, so their glycemic index is considered to be 0. You can find more information about the glycemic index of foods with no carbohydrates on our website.
The pH value of a food is a direct function of the free hydrogen ions present in that food. Food acids release hydrogen ions, giving acidic foods their distinct sour flavor.
Thus, the pH may be defined as a measure of free acidity. More precisely, pH is defined as the negative log of the hydrogen ion concentration (3).
Pork’s pH range is between 5.3 to 6.9, whereas the pH value of turkey falls between 5.7 and 6.8 (3).
Weight Loss & Diets
Meat is a good source of protein, vitamins, and minerals in your diet. However, if you currently eat more than 90g (cooked weight) of red and processed meat a day, the Department of Health advises that you cut it down to 70g (4).
Turkey meat and pork are high-calorie foods. Pork provides 53 more calories per every hundred grams serving than turkey meat.
For a low-calorie and low-fat diet, turkey meat is the better choice. Both pork and turkey contain no notable amount of carbohydrates and fit well into a low-carb diet.
A diet moderate to low in red meat, unprocessed and lean, and prepared at moderate temperatures is probably the best choice from the public health point of view (5).
Atkins and keto diets are low-carb diets, and when the body is starved of carbs, the liver produces ketones as an alternate fuel from stored fat; therefore, turkey and pork are great choices for these diets (6).
These meats can be consumed during the Paleo diet as well (7).
This section will show the benefits and risks of meat consumption on health using scientifically proven or researched information.
The American Heart Association advises eating poultry, such as turkey, instead of red meats, such as pork. Red meat can increase your blood cholesterol and exacerbate underlying cardiovascular diseases as they include higher saturated fatty acids and trans fats (8).
Besides saturated fats, other compounds found in red meat that can increase the risk of cardiovascular risk are trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO), sodium, nitrates and their byproducts, and heme iron (9).
Eating turkey meat doesn’t increase or decrease the risk of heart disease. While there’s no maximum limit for how much poultry is safe to eat, it is not directly beneficial to heart health either (10).
Turkey meat is a good source of arginine. As with other amino acids, the body uses arginine to make new proteins. Arginine is also the raw material for making nitric oxide, which relaxes and opens arteries, lowering blood pressure (11).
Regular inclusion of lean fresh pork in the diet in place of other meats may improve body composition without increasing the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Body composition can be improved without energy restriction or apparent changes in physical activity levels, total meat, or protein intake (12).
Higher intakes of poultry were found to predict a reduced risk of type II diabetes. The prevention of type II diabetes might be aided by consuming certain foods (for example, green vegetables, fruits and berries, oil and margarine, and poultry) rich in nutrients with hypothesized health benefits (13).
A more detailed article about turkey meat and diabetes can be found on our “Turkey Meat and Diabetes” page.
The limited evidence suggests a possible negative impact of processed pork on glucose-insulin metabolism and a possible positive impact of pork intake on waist circumference and high-density lipoprotein or “good” cholesterol. Still, significant research gaps exist, preventing the drawing of definite conclusions (14).
Turkey contains anti-cancer properties. It is a good source of trace mineral selenium, an essential component required for thyroid hormone metabolism, antioxidant defense systems, and immune function. Scientific studies have suggested that selenium intake can bring down cancer incidence. Turkey meat also contains tryptophan, which plays an essential role in strengthening the immune system (15).
Downsides and Risks
Unprocessed meat and poultry can be included in a heart-healthy eating pattern, but processed meat is not part of a heart-healthy eating pattern; it should be limited or avoided (16).
As mentioned above, red meat is high in cholesterol and saturated fats and, as a result, increases the risk for cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack and stroke.
Meats cooked at high temperatures increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes or worsening the disease. A healthier way to cook meats is by avoiding high-heat or open-flame methods (grilling, barbecuing, broiling, and roasting) or having brief periods of high heat. Some of the healthy cooking methods at lower temperatures are baking, sous-vide, boiling, steaming, stewing, and stir-frying.
There was an increased risk of weight gain and developing obesity in the frequent users of high-temperature cooking methods (caused by disturbance of fat metabolism), which may contribute to the development of diabetes (17).
Eating processed meat increases your risk of bowel, stomach, esophageal, and colorectal cancers. The World Health Organization has classified processed meats, in this case, pork, as a Group 1 carcinogen (known to cause cancer). There is also evidence of links with pancreatic, prostate, nasopharyngeal, and lung cancers (18,19, 20, 21).
Red Meat Allergy & Intolerance
Red meat intolerance manifests after red meat consumption, leading to bloating, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. Red meat allergy may also appear with similar symptoms; however, it’s a more serious condition involving the immune system.
- The Importance of Food pH in Commercial Canning Operations
- Meat & Heart Healthy Eating
- How Meat Is Cooked May Affect Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
- Red meat, processed meat and cancer
- Cancer: Carcinogenicity of the consumption of red meat and processed meat
Comparison summary table
|Lower in Saturated Fat|
|Lower in Sodium|
|Lower in Cholesterol|
|Lower in price|
|Lower in Sugar||Equal|
|Lower in Glycemic Index||Equal|
|Rich in minerals||Equal|
|Rich in vitamins||Equal|
All nutrients comparison - raw data values
|Vitamin A RAE||2µg||12µg|
|Omega-3 - DHA||0g||0.005g|
|Omega-3 - EPA||0g||0.008g|
|Omega-3 - DPA||0g||0.008g|
|Omega-6 - Eicosadienoic acid||0.014g|
|Omega-6 - Linoleic acid||1.841g|
|Omega-6 - Gamma-linoleic acid||0.003g|
|Omega-3 - ALA||0.105g|
|Omega-3 - Eicosatrienoic acid||0.001g|
|Omega-6 - Dihomo-gamma-linoleic acid||0.01g|
Which food is preferable for your diet?
|Low Fats diet|
|Low Carbs diet|
|Low Calories diet|
|Low Glycemic Index diet||Equal|
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Vitamins & Minerals Daily Need Coverage Score
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.
- Pork - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/167820/nutrients
- Turkey meat - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/171479/nutrients
All the Daily Values are presented for males aged 31-50, for 2000-calorie diets.