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A meat & poultry primer.

Think you know your tenderloins from your turkey wings? Let's see:

* Ounce for ounce, which has more fat: skinless chicken thigh or skinless drumstick? (The thigh has twice as much.)

* Which has more saturated fat: trimmed pork tenderloin or trimmed Select grade beef round steak? (Tenderloin.)

* Which has almost twice as much saturated fat as the other: ground chicken or ground turkey? (Ground chicken.)

Most people have mastered the general principles of fat and flesh: Chicken, turkey, and fish are leaner than pork, beef, and lamb. But when it gets down to specifics, eyes glaze over: How does one animal, part, cut, or grade compare to another?

This brief guide to beef, pork, and poultry can help prevent meat overload. It reflects the latest numbers published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

POULTRY

If you think that all poultry is created equal, consider this: chicken is twice as fatty as turkey.

What's more, chicken isn't even always better for you than red meat. A four-ounce serving of skinless chicken thigh supplies about a sixth of your daily limits for fat and saturated fat (the kind that raises your cholesterol). That's more fat than you get from a small, four-ounce serving of Select grade round steak or sirloin.

It's also more fat than a serving of pork tenderloin, center loin, sirloin, or top loin contains. Of course, you've got to carefully trim all the fat off the red meats for that to be true.

Stick to white meat chicken or turkey and you'll end up with less fat. But watch out for the wing. It's often considered white, yet it's fattier than the drumstick, even if you manage to remove the skin. If you're a dark meat fan, remember that the back is just as fatty as the thigh.

Ground turkey can be great...but only if it's made from breast meat and contains no skin. Brands that grind up a selection of parts with skin can have ten times as much fat as ground skinless breast meat.

So don't settle for a label that simply lists "turkey" or "chicken" as its main ingredient. That usually means meat plus skin. Look for "breast meat."

RED MEAT

As far as beef goes, your best bet is to stick with round steak. And whatever the grade (Select is best - it's leaner than Choice), you'll get the least fat from eye of round, followed by top, bottom, and tip.

With pork, you don't just have to watch out for the fat in the meat. The advertising can get you, too. Take "The Other White Meat" ads that are run by the National Pork Producers Council. They're bunk. Pork may be light in color, but it's not as lean as chicken or turkey. According to the USDA, a typical cut of trimmed pork is one-third fattier than skinless chicken and twice as fatty as skinless turkey. And the pork would have been even worse had the USDA included spare ribs in its "typical" pork numbers.

Trimmed veal is leaner than skinned chicken and is no higher in saturated fat. But you might lose your appetite if you saw those young calves being fed diets of nothing but milk. The iron-poor milk accounts for veal's pale color. It also makes the calves sick with anemia for their (mercifully) short lives.

TRIMMING

Any time you see numbers for the fat or calories in trimmed red meat, be suspicious. Scalpel-wielding technicians cut off all the fat around the edges of beef steaks and roasts. And for pork, veal, and lamb, they even cut the meat into pieces to remove every speck of fat.

How much fat is left on meats that are trimmed in kitchens around the country? Who knows?

For years, we've urged the USDA to analyze and publish figures for meat that has been trimmed by consumers. But its analyses are sponsored by the meat industry, so that's not likely to happen.

BEYOND FATS

What's in meat and poultry other than fat? It's rich in protein and most B-vitamins except folic acid. But most of us aren't short on protein and the Bs.

If there's anything we need from meat and poultry, it's iron and zinc. The red meats are higher in iron, but poultry's not a bad source (eight percent of the Daily Value). Zinc is abundant in all meat and poultry.

How could we forget cholesterol, you're wondering? It's there all right - about 100 mg, or roughly a third of your daily limit, in just four ounces of cooked meat. But that's all you need to remember, because the number is about the same whether you're eating red meat (veal has 130 mg), poultry, or fish, or whether it's trimmed or untrimmed.

The Meating Place

The numbers in the chart are for four ounces of the meat from cooked, skinless poultry or from cooked, carefully trimmed beef, pork, veal, or lamb, unless otherwise noted. A typical steak served in a restaurant weighs 6 to 9 ounces. A typical cooked chicken breast contains three ounces of meat. A typical chicken thigh contains almost 2 ounces, a typical drumstick 1 1/2 ounces, and a typical wing has less than an ounce. All fat numbers have been rounded to the nearest gram.

Products are ranked from lowest to highest saturated fat, before rounding. Ideally, most people should eat no more than 18 grams of saturated fat in a day. To help non-red-meat eaters, we've listed poultry and fish in color.

[TABULAR DATA OMITTED]
COPYRIGHT 1995 Center for Science in the Public Interest
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1995, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:includes related nutritional chart
Author:Hurley, Jayne
Publication:Nutrition Action Healthletter
Date:Nov 1, 1995
Words:918
Previous Article:Light home cooking.
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