Beef vs Chicken: Which Meat Has More Iron?

Iron is an essential mineral that plays a key role in oxygen transport and energy production. Many people are looking to boost their iron intake through dietary sources. When it comes to beef and chicken, which meat contains more iron?

In this article, we’ll compare the iron levels in beef versus chicken. We’ll look at the iron content of different cuts, explain the different forms of dietary iron, and provide tips for absorbing iron from meat. We’ll also give recommendations for increasing your iron intake from both animal and plant-based food sources.

After reading, you’ll know how to optimize your iron levels through a balanced meat-focused diet. Let’s dive in!

Beef Contains Significantly More Iron than Chicken

Overall, beef contains substantially more iron than chicken. A 3 oz serving of lean beef contains around 1.4-2.9 mg of iron, compared to just 0.7-1.1 mg in a 3 oz portion of chicken.

This makes sense when you consider that beef is red meat from cattle, while chicken is white meat from poultry. Red meats are well-known for their high iron content.

For reference, adult men need around 8 mg of iron per day, while adult women need 18 mg daily. So while both meats provide iron, you’d have to eat a lot more chicken than beef to meet your recommended daily intake.

Comparing Iron in Different Cuts of Beef and Chicken

Different cuts and types of beef and chicken contain varying amounts of iron

  • Ground beef: 2.99 mg (20% daily value)
  • Top sirloin steak: 2.9 mg (16% DV)
  • Tenderloin roast: 3.04 mg (17% DV)
  • Chicken breast: 0.7 mg (4% DV)
  • Chicken thigh: 1.21 mg (7% DV)
  • Chicken gizzard: 10.2 mg (57% DV!)
  • Chicken liver: 12.8 mg (71% DV)

So while regular chicken cuts are low in iron, chicken livers and gizzards are exceptionally high in iron and great vegetarian sources. Still, overall beef contains substantially more iron than the typical chicken meat purchased.

Heme Iron vs Non-Heme Iron

There are two forms of dietary iron – heme and non-heme iron. Heme iron comes from animal sources like meat seafood and poultry. It is more readily absorbed by the body than plant-based non-heme iron.

Beef contains a form of heme iron called myoglobin while chicken contains hemoglobin. Both deliver substantial amounts of highly bioavailable heme iron for good absorption.

Tips for Absorbing Iron From Meat

Here are some tips to help your body utilize the iron from beef and chicken:

  • Eat meat, chicken or fish – Heme iron is more easily absorbed than plant iron.

  • Don’t drink coffee – Caffeine inhibits iron absorption. Avoid it an hour before and after meals.

  • Eat vitamin C foods – Vitamin C helps you absorb non-heme iron from plant foods. Have vitamin C-rich fruits or veggies.

  • Cook in cast iron – Cooking acidic foods in cast iron skillets adds absorbable iron.

  • Avoid high-calcium foods – Calcium can hinder iron absorption, so avoid dairy with your iron-rich meals.

Optimizing absorption helps your body make the most of the iron content of both beef and chicken.

Other Dietary Sources of Iron

While meat contains highly bioavailable heme iron, you can also get non-heme iron from plant-based foods like:

  • Lentils, beans, chickpeas
  • Tofu, tempeh
  • Fortified breakfast cereals
  • Whole grains like quinoa, oats
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Dark leafy greens like spinach
  • Dried fruits

Getting a mix of plant and animal iron sources can help ensure you meet your recommended daily intake, especially if you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet.

Beef Has More Iron than Chicken: Key Takeaways

  • Beef provides 1.4-2.9 mg per 3 oz serving compared to just 0.7-1.1 mg in chicken.

  • Organ meats like chicken liver and gizzard are very high in iron.

  • Both meats contain heme iron that is readily absorbed by the body.

  • Absorb iron from meat by pairing with vitamin C and avoiding dairy/coffee with meals.

  • Vegetarians can eat beans, lentils, fortified cereals and more for plant-based iron.

The bottom line? When comparing beef versus chicken, beef clearly contains higher levels of bioavailable iron. For optimal iron intake, enjoy a balance of lean red meat, poultry, and plant sources. Your body will thank you!

Is chicken really better than red meat for cholesterol levels?


Which meat has the most iron?

Red meat is rich in heme iron, along with protein, selenium, and zinc. The amount of iron depends on the type of red meat. For every 100 grams of meat, beef has about 2.47 mg of iron, lamb has 1.78 mg, and venison has 4.98mg. Seafood is also a good source of iron, depending on the species.

Is chicken or beef higher in iron?

The haem iron content in beef (A-age), lamb, pork and chicken are 77%, 81%, 88% and 74% respectively of total iron. This has important dietary implications in calculating haem iron fractions of meat as this is higher than the common value used in the Monsen equation.

Are eggs high in iron?

This year Americans will consume, on average, about 280 eggs per person. That’s about five eggs every week, and for good reason too! Eggs have 0.9 mg of iron, or 4% of suggested daily value, which increases energy and boosts your immune system.

Is chicken healthier than beef?

Beef and Chicken meat have different nutritional profiles. Beef is richer in Vitamin B12, Iron, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B2, Zinc, and Phosphorus. Chicken meat, on the other hand, is higher in Vitamin B3, Vitamin B5, and Vitamin A RAE. Beef provides 163% more daily need coverage for Vitamin B12. However, Chicken meat has only 50% of the Iron content found in Beef, with Beef having 3.04mg and Chicken meat having 1.26mg. Beef also has less Saturated Fat compared to Chicken meat.

Does chicken have less iron than beef?

Beef has 3.04mg of Iron, while chicken has 1.26mg, which is about half the amount.

Which foods are high in iron?

According to this iron table specific to meat, chorizo, chicken, Frankfurt sausage, and beef are foods that are high in iron and should be included in our diets.

Which is better beef or chicken thigh?

Beef is richer in Vitamin B12, Vitamin B6, Iron, Vitamin B2, Selenium, Phosphorus, and Zinc, yet Chicken thigh is richer in Vitamin B5, and Vitamin B3. Daily need coverage for Vitamin B12 from Beef is 162% higher. Beef contains 2 times more Iron than Chicken thigh. Beef contains 3.04mg of Iron, while Chicken thigh contains 1.46mg.

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