We Eat Too Much Meat!

Anytime healthy eating is discussed one of the most controversial subjects is that of eating meat.

There are many different views concerning its inclusion in a human’s diet and I personally feel every side of the issue has some good points as well as some bad points.

The one thing that I’m pretty certain of is this: In general, those following a typical western diet eat too much of it!

While the protein found in meat is useful for repairing and building our bodies, we certainly don’t need a large portion of meat with every meal.

With this article I hope to portray a more balanced approach to eating meat as part of a healthy diet.

Protein Bio-Availability

Before I get into some practical suggestions on eating meat, let’s look at some common meat and vegetable protein sources in regards to how they compare biologically.

The chart below shows the bio-availability of different protein sources. The higher the number, the better your body is able to utilize the protein.

Protein Source

Bio-Availability Index

Whey Protein Isolate Blends 100-159
Whey Concentrate 104
Whole Egg 100
Cow’s Milk 91
Egg White 88
Fish 83
Beef 80
Chicken 79
Casein 77
Rice 74
Soy 59
Wheat 54
Beans 49
Peanuts 43


As you can see, not all sources of protein are created equally, but generally all of the most popular meats we tend to eat are about the same.

How Much Meat to Eat?

The amount of meat that you need to eat is highly dependent on what your goals are.

But, as I mentioned earlier the traditional mindset of having a large portion of meat with each meal isn’t ideal for your health or the environment.

It takes a lot of resources to create a pound of meat for human consumption.

Typical daily protein requirements:

  • Weight loss = .65 grams per pound of body weight.
  • Maintain muscle = .65 gram per pound of body weight.
  • Build muscle = 1 gram per pound of body weight.

So, a person weighing 150 pounds would need 97.5 grams of protein per day.

Our macro calculator uses these ratios when calculating your daily protein amounts.

However, this doesn’t mean that all the protein has to come from animal sources, but the suggested amount is protein from all dietary sources.

11 Tips for Eating Meat Healthfully

  1. Choose poultry, fish, and eggs as your primary source of animal protein. Eggs have the highest protein bioavailability and poultry and fish are much leaner than beef or pork.
  2. Limit rich meats like beef and pork to once or twice per week. Studies have linked the high consumption of red meat to colon cancer.1
  3. Skip the breakfast meat. Add another egg instead since it is a better source of protein. However, don’t deprive yourself of the joy of bacon, have it once per week.
  4. Avoid processed meats. Lunch meats usually have preservatives and are high in sodium.
  5. Marinate meat to make lean cuts of meat more tender. A good marinade has to have an acid like lemon juice or vinegar in order to work.
  6. Choose hormone free, free range or grass fed meat when possible. This can be hard for those on a budget but luckily this trend is becoming more popular, which is increasing competition and lowering prices.
  7. Buy meat from local farmers or butchers. Most meat in chain supermarkets comes from just a few national meat packing plants. By buying local you know exactly where your meat is coming from and how long it’s been from slaughter to your table.
  8. Avoid cooking meat with breading or frying in oil. This adds a lot of extra calories. Grilling, roasting, baking, or broiling are great healthy cooking methods.
  9. Aim for at least one meatless meal per day. Get your protein through nuts, seeds, grains, and vegetables instead.
  10. When eating out choose fish or chicken entrée options. Apart from the fried varieties, they usually have less fat and calories but just as much protein.
  11. Eat your portion of meat with more veggies. Skip the high calorie, starchy sides that usually accompany meat.

In conclusion, I just want to stress that there are many ways to eat healthy and this can be different for different people.  Vegetarians can be as healthy as meat eaters and vice versa.

If you choose to eat meat as part of your diet then hopefully this article will help you to do so in a more healthful way.

Do you have any healthy guidelines to share about eating meat?  

Scientific Reference:

Parr, C. L., Hjartåker, A., Lund, E., & Veierød, M. B. (2013). Meat intake, cooking methods and risk of proximal colon, distal colon and rectal cancer: The Norwegian Women and Cancer (NOWAC) cohort study. International Journal of Cancer, 133(5), 1153-1163. Study Link

30 Comments

  1. Bruinsma 2 weeks ago

    So i have a Protein Source index table and my body weight. Giving me my protein requirement. How many grams of chicken does one need to reach the 97.5 grams protein?

    Reply
  2. Kris 1 month ago

    People do not work in grams, how many ounces.. it is just the same old eat more fish and poultry and less beef and pork advice.

    Reply
    • Noodle 1 month ago

      Most of the world works in grams*

      Reply
  3. Gerry 2 months ago

    This article, if it is going to be useful to anyone, needs to be more specific and accurate when stating actual amounts of meat to eat. So, below the heading “Typical protein requirements” are we referrring to daily or per meal ? And are we referring to grams of protein or grams of meat? I suggest the author specifies these values both at the beginning of the article and where actual amounts are stated.

    Reply
  4. gtdghf 12 months ago

    uhhh. this article is very good!

    Reply
  5. SunShine

    And deer/elk? Good for the environment and for my fields. Lean. No additives. And the days and days of exercise to bring them home is good too. Plus it helps the wildlife conservation fund. Elk — backstrap — for Thanksgiving!

    Reply
  6. Ry

    Have bacon once a week before saying avoid processed meats? Plus the recent study linking bacon to cancer. Think I’ll keep it to a handful of times a year.. If that.

    Reply
    • Ted

      They do make uncured bacon and it’s delicious.

      Reply
  7. Bill

    Before biting into that beef you might want to review this – https://www.foeeurope.org/…/foee_hbf_meatatlas_jan2014.pdf

    And this:

    World-wide over 70 BILLION animals per year are processed through Factory Farms.

    The Most Shocking 1.5 Min Video the World Must See – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g1z1taw6yNw&feature=youtu.be

    Factory Farming in 60 Seconds Flat – http://www.peta.org/…/factory-farming-in-60-seconds-flat/

    The Most Disturbing Sound in the World – https://www.facebook.com/official.peta/videos/558784587492895/

    The most effective way to stop Factory Farming – is to stop buying Factory Farm products.

    The coldest thing on the planet is the Human Heart.

    Reply
    • SunShine

      Which is why I hunt for one elk/deer every single year — plenty of meat for the year.

      Reply
  8. Anthony Hicks

    working towards getting riped and abs

    Reply
  9. Anthony Hicks

    with ground beef is 1 larg patty a day with a gallon of water good im 150pounds 5 8 tall work out 30 min a day

    Reply
    • Ted

      Hi Anthony, If you can, choose leaner meats like chicken and turkey most of the time and get a good protein supplement, but red meat a couple times a week is ok.

      Reply
  10. Ryan

    Your protein requirements are backwards. Higher protein is needed most when losing weight, especially if the rate of loss is drastic and/or you’re trying to get very lean. In any other situation, 0.65 g/lb is probably fine:
    http://bayesianbodybuilding.com/the-myth-of-1glb-optimal-protein-intake-for-bodybuilders/

    Reply
    • Ted

      That’s a highly debatable issue but thanks for sharing the resource.

      Reply
    • TonyK

      It’s actually pretty well established that as caloric intake goes down, protein requirements go up….that is if you wish to minimize loss of lean body mass. But the article doesn’t specify as to the type of weight loss we are looking for…so I can’t really take issue with the numbers provided.

      However, if your goal is to lose weight while minimizing loss of lean body mass, the best way to do it is to do train at a caloric deficit but increase your protein. Also, as you get leaner, protein requirements tend to go up also because lean athletes trying to lose fat while sparing lean body mass loss need even higher protein intakes than non-lean people.

      Reply
      • Ryan

        The article does talk about lean mass preservation, and 0.82 g/lb should be sufficient even in lean athletes wanting to drop body weight while preserving lean mass.

        That said, some emerging research by Eric Helms may indicate a need for more, even as high as gram per lb, in bodybuilders getting contest lean.

        Reply
        • TonyK

          I was referring to the Blog post…sorry for the confusion. I didn’t get a chance to read the article you linked, but the bottom line is that I agree with your reasoning.

          Reply
  11. spectra311

    I tend to use meat as a condiment. I will dice up some poached chicken and put it on a big salad or I’ll have a small piece of fish with a lot of steamed veggies. You definitely do not need as much meat as my inlaws (who are former farmers) eat, which is 4-5 ounces at lunch and dinner and 2-3 ounces at breakfast. To me, that’s just excessive.

    Reply
    • Ted

      That’s a great tip! And if your inlaws are like my parents they accompany that meat with a big serving of mashed potatoes and a small serving of over boiled veggies.

      Reply
  12. Daniel Wagle

    I don’t eat meat at all, mainly because I recoil at the violence involved in factory farming. I don’t think eggs, even caged free, that are sold in the store are acceptable to me personally from a humane perspective, but it may be possible for them to be acceptable if one gets them from their own chickens. I don’t make the argument that persons cannot be healthy at all if they eat ANY meat whatsoever. One must look at the blue zones or places such as Okinawa which is populated by a lot of long lived folks, where people do eat some meat, but not a lot of meat. I think this post is a good guide for persons who still consume meat. The most important thing to do if one consumes meat is to eliminate processed meats as much as possible and probably limit red meat quite a lot. There is a lot of evidence against processed meats. It may be a little weaker against non processed red meats, but there are still a lot of studies which correlate red meat with colon cancer, for instance. Chicken and fish do seem, in agreement with this post, a lot healthier than red meat, according to much research.. Nuts and whole grains are also good substitutes for red meat as well. I eat nuts, oats, beans, brown rice and soy for protein.

    Reply
    • Ted

      How many grams of protein do you aim for a day? When I ate vegetarian I found it difficult to get enough protein without also getting too many carbs. I’m not a big fan of supplementation but I did use hemp protein powder. However, I was having difficulty experiencing gains in my body building routine. Great advice though

      Reply
      • Daniel Wagle

        I aim for about 1 gram per kilogram. I weigh about 70 or so kilograms, so I think I easily meet this. A good chunk of my protein source is nuts, which don’t have a lot of carbs. I eat 4 ounces of nuts, two tablespoons of natural peanut butter, two tablespoons of ground flaxseed each day. Of course, I do get protein from grains and beans as well. But the problem is, I eat at work 5 days a week and don’t eat beans on those days. On my off days, I eat beans as well, which adds a lot of protein- I probably exceed 1 gram per kilogram on those days. Soybeans have more protein per calorie than most plant sources. Beans have more protein per calorie than nuts do, but as I stated pumpkin seeds have very high quality protein. Spinach also has high quality protein as well. It is also easier to get enough protein on plants if a person can consume more calories without weight gain. I can consume over 3000 calories a day without weight gain. It would be hard to get enough protein on plants on 1000 calories a day- this might necessitate soy protein isolate. I also am not trying to bulk up muscles, just strengthen them. I am more into endurance exercise, as I bicycle everyday.

        Reply
    • spectra311

      I tend to agree with you about the eggs. A friend of ours has chickens and he sells me eggs for $1.50 a dozen. They are about 1000x better than any eggs you could buy in the store because he feeds them a healthy diet and they get exercise and fresh air. I’ll never buy another grocery store egg as long as I live.

      Reply
    • SunShine

      Elk/deer — and chicken eggs from my pen. Oh so much better than store. Local farmers I can buy pork from on occasion. All run freely… small herds. Tastes so much better than anything in a store. Add my vegetable garden and steelhead/salmon runs in the winter…and I’m set.

      Reply
  13. JamesF

    Very good post right there.

    Many people in richer Western countries have seen the meat supply as limitless – not realizing the amount of resources required to raise the meat.

    The plant can’t sustain all of us eating lots of meat, but then, supposedly the free market should govern this.

    One question – what’s with Argentina – even though consumption has dropped, they have per capita beef consumption of 121 lb per year! http://beefmagazine.com/beef-exports/argentina-provides-lesson-how-ruin-beef-industry

    Reply
    • Ted

      Crazy that there are 1.5 billion head of cattle on the earth and it takes 1,799 gallons of water to produce one pound of meat. Food animals are estimated at 20 billion compared to the 7 billion humans on the planet. Imagine the resources to sustain 20 billion animals… all this while probably a billion people are undernourished or starving. Pretty sad really. But there’s no money to be made in feeding the hungry ….

      Reply
      • JamesF

        Yep, when you look at it like that, it’s sobering. So what happened to the cloned meat that can be generated in a lab? Maybe not such a bad idea.

        Reply
        • Jason 3 months ago

          yes but……………MMMMM T-BONE STEAK

          Reply
      • Sceptic

        Might want to check your numbers there sport. 8000l water / lb = 4000/kg. Average beast weight say 500kg, 2000000l water. Over the life of a beast, at say 10yrs you’re suggesting each beast requires more than 500l of water per day. Unlikely that a beast will drink its own body weight in water daily. Even taking into account requirements for processing beast to steaks, transport, etc, you can’t neglect water requirements for same for plant foods.

        Reply