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A meat & poultry primer.

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

* Which has more fat: a skinless chicken thigh or a skinless drumstick? (A thigh has almost twice as much.)

* Which steak has more saturated fat: trimmed top round veal or trimmed top round beef? (They're equally low.)

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. (We'll deal with the many species of fish in a separate article.)


If you think that all poultry is created equal, consider this: chicken is one-and-a-half times fattier than turkey.

What's more, chicken isn't always better for you than red meat. A four-ounce serving of chicken thigh supplies about a sixth of your daily limits for fat and saturated fat. That's more than four ounces of select grade round steak, sirloin, or chuck arm pot roast.

It's also more than a serving of pork tenderloin, top loin, center loin, or the rump of the ham leg. Of course, you've got to trim every speck of fat off the red meats for that to be true.

Stick to the white meat 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 all the skin.

If you're a dark meat fan, keep in mind that the back is even fattier than the thigh.

Ground chicken and turkey can be great...but only if they're made from breast meat and no skin. Brands that contain a variety of poultry parts and skin can have five times as much fat as ground skinless breast meat.

So don't settle for a label that lists "turkey" or "chicken" as ingredients. That usually means meat plus skin. Look for "breast meat"...or call the company.


You don't see the Beef Industry Council crowing about ribs or porterhouse steaks. Nope. Its ads feature the "Skinniest Six" cuts, three of which are round steaks (the others are sirloin, top loin, and tenderloin).

Just remember that their low numbers only apply to Select grade. If a label doesn't list a grade, it could be anything, including the fattier Choice.

Your best bet is to stick with round steak. And whatever the grade, you'll get the least fat from top round, followed by eye, bottom, and tip.

Ads run by the Pork Producers Council are also marbled with half-truths. Many give numbers only for tenderloin, which is quite lean--but also quite unusual--for pork. (The average pork cut is twice as fatty as tenderloin, which accounts for less than two percent of the pork sold in the U.S.)

And don't believe that bunk about pork being "The Other White Meat." Pork may be light in color, but it's not as lean as chicken or turkey. The typical cut of trimmed pork is one-third fattier than skinless chicken and twice as fatty as skinless turkey.

Trimmed veal is leaner than skinned chicken and is no higher in saturated fat. But you might lose your appetite if you saw those baby 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.


Any time you see figures (including ours) for the fats or calories in trimmed red meat, be suspicious. The trimming was done by scalpel-wielding technicians.

How much fat is left on meats that are trimmed by ordinary consumers before being cooked? Who knows?

For years, we have 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.


What's in meat and poultry other than fat? Protein is the first thing that comes to mind...and the last nutrient that most of us need to get more of.

Meat and poultry are rich in all the B-vitamins except folic acid. But most of us aren't short on the Bs, except that older folks may need B-6 and B-12.

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 (8 to 11 percent of the USRDA). Zinc is abundant throughout.

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. 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, trimmed or untrimmed.
COPYRIGHT 1992 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 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:fat and calories
Author:Liebman, Bonnie
Publication:Nutrition Action Healthletter
Date:Jul 1, 1992
Previous Article:Food labels get "healthy." (health claims on food labels)
Next Article:Food facts.

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