A nutritious, balanced diet includes two to three daily servings from the meat food group, which is made up not only of red meat and poultry but also fish, eggs, legumes, tofu, and peanut butter. Small servings of lean meat deliver a solid amount of nutrients without too much fat. Red meat, such as steaks, burgers, and pork, is loaded with protein, B vitamins, iron, and zinc. Chicken and turkey don’t contain as much iron and zinc, but they have considerably less saturated fat. Examples of a leaner, 100-gram (3-1/2-ounce) serving include a roasted, skinless chicken breast (4 grams of fat) or turkey breast (1 gram of fat). Look for “lean” or “extra lean” cuts when you shop.
When choosing meats, emphasize leaner types (poultry instead of beef and pork) and leaner cuts (sirloin over ground beef or pork loin over bacon). Here’s how different meats stack up:
Beef: Fattiest cuts are brisket, prime rib roast, short ribs, and regular ground beef (hamburger). Leanest cuts are sirloin steak, rump roast, and eye of round roast; inside round steak is the leanest cut of all.
Lamb: Fattiest cuts are shoulder, blade chop, spareribs, and ground lamb. Leanest cuts are leg (sirloin and shank), loin chop, arm chop, and foreshanks.
Pork: Fattiest cuts are bacon, sausage, and side ribs. Leanest cuts are tenderloin, center cut roast, pork leg, and lean ham.
Poultry: Fattiest are dark meat, anything with the skin on, self-basting whole turkey, duck, and goose. Leanest are skinless turkey and chicken breasts.
Processed meat: Fattiest are prepackaged cold cuts and hot dogs. Even “lean” franks may have about 10 grams of fat each. Leanest are cold cuts with less than 1 gram of fat per 30 grams (1 ounce). That’s 4 grams or less in a 120-gram (4-ounce) serving.
Veal: This type of meat tends to be lower in fat than beef, lamb, or pork. Leanest cuts are leg cutlet, blade steak, rib roast, shoulder steak, and loin chop.
Wild game: Meats from most wild game are low in fat. The leanest ones are meats from deer, elk, bison, quail, pheasant, ostrich, and emu.
As you have noted from the above list, wild game, such as ostrich, emu, pheasant, venison, and buffalo, is also a lean meat choice. A 100-gram (3-1/2-ounce) serving of bison steak has only 2 grams of fat. Wild birds (some of which may be farm-raised) often have as little as 3 grams of fat per serving.
Here’s another tip: Steak that is marbleized – with interior steaks of fat – has a high fat content and should be passed over for a leaner cut.