You may start to notice non-traditional meats making their way onto the menus at your favorite restaurants in the near future. If you'd like to become a more adventurous eater and get a taste of the exotic, perhaps you should expand your meat mindset and try new types of lean meat. You'd be surprised to find out that many of the less-conventional, "specialty" meats are quite lean. They're often lower in fat and higher in protein than the American favorite--beef. These meats each provide delicious flavor but little fat, making them new favorites at unique, hip restaurants that want to offer diners healthy yet tasty options.
Because an appropriate sized serving of meat is three ounces, which is about the size of a deck of playing cards, I'll use that amount when comparing these meats.
Rabbit is gaining popularity among chefs due to its exceptional nutritional profile and sustainability (rabbits eat grass, not grains). It's flavor is described as mild and it can be prepared in the same way you'd cook chicken. The USDA National Nutrient Database lists wild raw rabbit as having 97 calories, 2 grams of fat (0.6 grams saturated), 18.5 grams of protein, and 69 milligrams of cholesterol for a 3-ounce serving.
Although it's a bird, ostrich meat is often described as tasting much like beef. It's chock-full of B-vitamins, which play a key role in healthy metabolism. The USDA National Nutrient Database lists raw ostrich tenderloin as having 105 calories, 2.7 grams of fat (1 gram saturated), 18.8 grams of protein, and 68 milligrams of cholesterol for a 3-ounce serving.
Bison is incredibly lean, making it a smart choice for replacing fattier cuts of beef since the taste is quite similar but a little sweeter. The USDA National Nutrient Database shows that raw bison provides 93 calories, 1.6 grams of fat (0.6 grams saturated), 18.4 grams of protein, and 53 milligrams of cholesterol for a 3-ounce serving.
Deer meat has a taste and texture close to beef but with a slightly more gamey flavor. The USDA National Nutrient Database lists raw deer meat as having 102 calories, 2.1 grams of fat (0.8 grams saturated), 19.5 grams of protein, and 72 milligrams of cholesterol for a 3-ounce serving.
While wild boars may catch a bad reputation for their ugly appearance and wild behavior (pun intended), they're making their way onto our plates because of their excellent nutritional profile. You might guess that wild boar would taste like pork, but this couldn't be further from the truth. Wild boar meat has a strong, nutty, rich flavor that is unique and often not comparable to other meats. The USDA National Nutrient Database reveals that raw wild boar provides 104 calories, 2.8 grams of fat (0.8 grams saturated), and 18.3 grams of protein.
Elk meat tastes similar to beef but is a little more mild and sweet. The USDA National Nutrient Database shows that raw wild elk provides 94 calories, 1.2 grams of fat (0.5 grams saturated), 19.5 grams of protein, and 47 milligrams of cholesterol for a 3-ounce serving.
Across the world, more goat is eaten than any other meat. Its flavor has been described as savory, less sweet than beef, and similar to lamb. It's also highly-sustainable. According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, raw goat provides 93 calories, 2 grams of fat (0.6 grams saturated), 17.5 grams of protein, and 48 milligrams of cholesterol per a 3-ounce serving.
Seeking out specialty meats may allow you to expand your palate without expanding your waistline. Give one of these less-conventional meats a try. Your taste buds and your possibly-slimmer physique may thank you.
Kari Hartel, RD, LD is a Registered, Licensed Dietitian and freelance writer based out of St. Louis, MO. Kari is passionate about nutrition education and the prevention of chronic disease through a healthy diet and active lifestyle. Kari holds a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics from Southeast Missouri State University and is committed to helping people lead healthy lives. She completed a yearlong dietetic internship at OSF St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria, IL, where she worked with a multitude of clients and patients with complicated diagnoses. She planned, marketed, and implemented nutrition education programs and cooking demonstrations for the general public as well as for special populations, including patients with cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, obesity, and school-aged children. Contact Kari at KariHartelRD@gmail.com.