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Veal vs. Beef — Health Impact and Nutrition Comparison

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Article author photo Victoria Mazmanyan by Victoria Mazmanyan | Last updated on July 17, 2023
Medically reviewed by Astghik Baghinyan Article author photo Astghik Baghinyan
Veal
vs
Beef

Summary

Beef is slightly higher in calories and fats but lower in cholesterol when compared to veal.

Beef provides more than twice the amount of vitamin B12 and approximately 2 times more selenium and zinc, as well as 3 times more iron compared to veal. On the other hand, veal is approximately 2 times richer in vitamin B2, vitamin B3, and vitamin B5 and contains slightly higher levels of copper and phosphorus.

The adverse 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.

Introduction

Humans have been consuming cattle meat since prehistoric times. Cattle were domesticated around 8500 BC primarily because of the multitude of valuable products they could provide to humans.

Today, bovine meat is one of the most consumed meats in the world. This article will examine the two primary types of bovine meat – veal and beef – and compare their nutritional values and health impacts to determine which meat is the better choice.

Classification

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 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, iron.

Appearance

While veal and beef are both red meats, beef is significantly darker in color. Because of its high myoglobin content, beef is also higher in iron.

Taste and Use

Notably, veal has a more tender texture and a more delicate taste. Additionally, veal is easier to digest 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.

Price

According to the general market value of meats, beef is slightly cheaper.

Varieties

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.

Nutrition

The nutritional values below are presented for broiled ground veal and broiled patty beef (85% of lean meat and 15% of fat).

The average serving size of beef and veal is approximately 3 ounces or 85 grams. To make the comparison easier, we will be using 100-gram servings of each. 

Macronutrients and Calories

Beef is overall denser in nutrients, as it consists of only 58% water, whereas veal contains 67% water.  

Macronutrient Comparison

Macronutrient breakdown side-by-side comparison
Veal
2
:
2
Beef
Contains more Water +15.1%
Contains more Other +91.2%
Contains more Fats +103.8%
Equal in Protein - 25.93
24% 8% 67%
Protein: 24.38 g
Fats: 7.56 g
Carbs: 0 g
Water: 66.76 g
Other: 1.3 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 Water +15.1%
Contains more Other +91.2%
Contains more Fats +103.8%
Equal in Protein - 25.93

Calories

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.

Per 100-gram serving, beef contains 15.41 grams of fats, while veal contains 7.56 grams. The fat type distributions in beef and veal are similar. Both consist of mostly saturated and monounsaturated fats.   

Veal is higher in cholesterol.

Fat Type Comparison

Fat type breakdown side-by-side comparison
Veal
2
:
1
Beef
Contains less Saturated Fat -48.4%
Contains more Polyunsaturated fat +13.6%
Contains more Monounsaturated Fat +134.8%
47% 44% 9%
Saturated Fat: 3.04 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 2.84 g
Polyunsaturated fat: 0.55 g
45% 51% 4%
Saturated Fat: 5.895 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 6.668 g
Polyunsaturated fat: 0.484 g
Contains less Saturated Fat -48.4%
Contains more Polyunsaturated fat +13.6%
Contains more Monounsaturated Fat +134.8%

Protein and Carbohydrates

Beef is negligibly richer in protein; however, veal contains a significantly higher amount of all essential amino acids. Therefore, the quality of protein from veal is more favorable.

Per 100-gram serving, beef contains 25.93 grams of protein, while veal contains 24.38 grams of protein

Like most meats, both beef and veal contain no notable amount of carbohydrates.

Vitamins

Veal and beef have similar vitamin profiles. The predominant vitamins found in both are B-complex vitamins, especially vitamin B12, vitamin B6, vitamin B5, vitamin B3, and vitamin B2. 

Beef provides over twice the amount of vitamin B12 when compared to veal. Meanwhile, veal is approximately 2 times richer in vitamin B2, vitamin B3, and vitamin B5. 

Beef and veal contain similar amounts of vitamin B6.

Both of these meats are absent in vitamin C and vitamin D. Veal also lacks vitamin A, which is present in small amounts in beef.     

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.
Veal
7
:
2
Beef
Contains more Vitamin E +25%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +52.2%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +53.4%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +49.3%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +76.3%
Contains more Folate +22.2%
Contains more Vitamin A +∞%
Contains more Vitamin B12 +107.9%
Equal in Vitamin B6 - 0.382
Equal in Vitamin K - 1.2
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% 0% 0% 18% 63% 151% 70% 90% 9% 159% 3%
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%
Contains more Vitamin E +25%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +52.2%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +53.4%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +49.3%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +76.3%
Contains more Folate +22.2%
Contains more Vitamin A +∞%
Contains more Vitamin B12 +107.9%
Equal in Vitamin B6 - 0.382
Equal in Vitamin K - 1.2

Minerals

Veal and beef are packed with various minerals.

Beef contains around 2 times more selenium and zinc, as well as 3 times more iron, when compared to veal. On the other hand, veal contains slightly more copper and phosphorus. 

Veal and beef also contain similar amounts of other minerals, such are potassium, magnesium, calcium, sodium, 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" charts below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food.
Veal
5
:
5
Beef
Contains more Magnesium +14.3%
Contains more Copper +21.2%
Contains more Manganese +191.7%
Contains more Iron +162.6%
Contains less Sodium -13.3%
Contains more Zinc +63%
Contains more Selenium +56.9%
Equal in Calcium - 18
Equal in Phosphorus - 198
Equal in Potassium - 318
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper Manganese Selenium 6% 38% 18% 93% 30% 11% 106% 35% 5% 75%
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper Manganese Selenium 6% 98% 15% 85% 29% 10% 173% 29% 2% 118%
Contains more Magnesium +14.3%
Contains more Copper +21.2%
Contains more Manganese +191.7%
Contains more Iron +162.6%
Contains less Sodium -13.3%
Contains more Zinc +63%
Contains more Selenium +56.9%
Equal in Calcium - 18
Equal in Phosphorus - 198
Equal in Potassium - 318

Glycemic Index

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.

Acidity

The acidity of meat is higher immediately after the slaughter and starts to fall steadily 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-fat diets. They both fit well into low-carb and low-glycemic-index diets.

Various studies have concluded that meat intake, especially processed meats, leads to an increased risk of weight gain and obesity (3, 4, 5).

In contrast, one study suggested that high-protein, low-fat diets can be effective in weight reduction, regardless of whether lean beef consumption is rich or restricted as a source of red meat (6).

In weight loss diets, lean, unprocessed meats are advised to be chosen over fatty and processed meats (7).

Health Impact

Now that we have looked at the nutritional differences between beef and veal, we will look at the effects of these two types of meats on health.

Health Benefits

Cardiovascular Health

Being low in saturated fats, lean beef can have a positive impact on lipid risk factors for cardiovascular disease by reducing total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein levels (8). Moreover, veal is lower in saturated fatty acids and total fats compared to beef, which means these positive effects also extend to veal.

One study has shown that a healthy diet high in protein, with or without red meat, may improve cardiometabolic disease risk factors (7).

Diabetes

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

Cardiovascular Health

Despite previous findings, research has indicated that the consumption of both unprocessed and, particularly, processed red meat is associated with a slight increase in the risk of cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality (10). On the other hand, substituting protein sources such as soy, nuts, and legumes for red meat has been linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease (11).

These adverse effects are said to be caused by a chemical found in the blood after eating red meat called trimethylamine N-oxide or TMAO (12)

Diabetes

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.

Cancer

Consumption of red meats, particularly processed red meat, 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 esophagus and non-cardia stomach cancer (14).

Article author photo Victoria Mazmanyan
Education: General Medicine at YSMU
Last updated: July 17, 2023
Medically reviewed by Astghik Baghinyan

Infographic

Veal vs Beef infographic
Infographic link

Comparison summary table

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

All nutrients comparison - raw data values

Nutrient Veal Beef Opinion
Protein 24.38g 25.93g Beef
Fats 7.56g 15.41g Beef
Calories 172kcal 250kcal Beef
Calcium 17mg 18mg Beef
Iron 0.99mg 2.6mg Beef
Magnesium 24mg 21mg Veal
Phosphorus 217mg 198mg Veal
Potassium 337mg 318mg Veal
Sodium 83mg 72mg Beef
Zinc 3.87mg 6.31mg Beef
Copper 0.103mg 0.085mg Veal
Manganese 0.035mg 0.012mg Veal
Selenium 13.7µg 21.5µg Beef
Vitamin A 0IU 9IU Beef
Vitamin A RAE 0µg 3µg Beef
Vitamin E 0.15mg 0.12mg Veal
Vitamin D 0IU 2IU Beef
Vitamin B1 0.07mg 0.046mg Veal
Vitamin B2 0.27mg 0.176mg Veal
Vitamin B3 8.03mg 5.378mg Veal
Vitamin B5 1.16mg 0.658mg Veal
Vitamin B6 0.39mg 0.382mg Veal
Folate 11µg 9µg Veal
Vitamin B12 1.27µg 2.64µg Beef
Vitamin K 1.2µg 1.2µg
Tryptophan 0.247mg 0.094mg Veal
Threonine 1.065mg 0.72mg Veal
Isoleucine 1.201mg 0.822mg Veal
Leucine 1.94mg 1.45mg Veal
Lysine 2.009mg 1.54mg Veal
Methionine 0.569mg 0.478mg Veal
Phenylalanine 0.984mg 0.725mg Veal
Valine 1.347mg 0.914mg Veal
Histidine 0.885mg 0.604mg Veal
Cholesterol 103mg 88mg Beef
Trans Fat 0.572g Veal
Saturated Fat 3.04g 5.895g Veal
Omega-3 - DHA 0g 0.001g Beef
Omega-3 - EPA 0g 0.003g Beef
Omega-3 - DPA 0g 0.016g Beef
Monounsaturated Fat 2.84g 6.668g Beef
Polyunsaturated fat 0.55g 0.484g Veal
Omega-6 - Gamma-linoleic acid 0.012g Beef
Omega-3 - ALA 0.044g Beef

Which food is preferable for your diet?

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

People also compare

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
47%
Veal
52%
Beef
Minerals Daily Need Coverage Score
41%
Veal
56%
Beef

Comparison summary

Which food is lower in Saturated Fat?
Veal
Veal is lower in Saturated Fat (difference - 2.855g)
Which food is richer in vitamins?
Veal
Veal is relatively richer in vitamins
Which food contains less Sodium?
Beef
Beef contains less Sodium (difference - 11mg)
Which food is lower in Cholesterol?
Beef
Beef is lower in Cholesterol (difference - 15mg)
Which food is cheaper?
Beef
Beef is cheaper (difference - $0.2)
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.

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. Veal - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/175291/nutrients
  2. Beef - 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.