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Is Red Meat Always High in Fat?

Jun 15, 2010


Red meat has gained a reputation of being the bad meat. It is thought to always be high in saturated fat and cholesterol, and therefore, an unhealthy food. The truth is the fat content of beef varies greatly by the cut and how it’s prepared.

The Truth about Red Meat

Lean red meat is relatively low in fat with a fat content of only 4-8 grams per 100 gram serving. Even cuts of meat with higher fat content can be made healthier. Trimming the excess fat prior to cooking can significantly reduce the fat content of a cut of beef.

Substituting chicken or turkey for beef may not always save you fat calories. Lean ground beef has around the same percentage of fat and calories as lean ground turkey. Some cuts of lean beef are just as low in fat as boneless skinless chicken breast. Additionally, some cuts of turkey and chicken have every bit as much fat in them as a well marbled cut of beef.

Ground meats typically contain much more fats than whole cuts. The best way to know what’s going into ground meat is to purchase a whole cut, like a round roast, and have it ground by a butcher. Often, there is no additional charge for this service.

Red meat is an excellent source of many important nutrients including protein, zinc and iron. If fat content is a concern, consider trying grass fed beef. Grass fed beef in significantly lower in fat than grain fed beef. It’s also a good source of omega-3 fats, beta carotene, vitamin A and vitamin E. Grass fed beef may be hard to find in local markets, but it can be ordered online and delivered directly to the consumer.

Lean Cuts of Beef

Government labeling guidelines state that for a cut of beef to be labeled lean it must contain less than 10 grams of fat, 4.5 grams or less of saturated fat and under 95 milligrams of cholesterol per a 3.5 ounce serving. To qualify for extra lean labeling status, a cut of meat needs to have less than 5 grams of total fat, 2 grams or less of saturated fat and less than 95 milligrams of cholesterol per a 3.5 ounce serving.

The following is a list of 29 cuts of meat that meet the guidelines for lean beef. They are listed in order from least to most fat content.

  • Eye of round roast and steak
  • Sirloin tip side steak
  • Top round roast and steak
  • Bottom round roast and steak
  • Top sirloin steak
  • Brisket- flat half
  • 95 percent lean ground beef
  • Round tip roast and steak
  • Round steak
  • Shank cross cuts
  • Chuck shoulder pot roast
  • Sirloin tip center roast and steak
  • Chuck shoulder steak
  • Bottom round steak
  • Top loin (strip steak)
  • Shoulder petite tender and medallions
  • Flank steak
  • Shoulder center (ranch) steak
  • Tri-tip roast and steak
  • Tenderloin roast and steak
  • T-bone steak



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