The most important nutritional fact to remember about chicken meat is that it is an excellent source of high quality protein while having generally lower fat levels (and particularly saturated fatty acids) compared with other meats.
Many people incorrectly believe that chicken doesn’t provide the same density or quality of protein that red meat delivers – the reality is quite different. In fact, the protein content of all meats (chicken, beef, lamb and pork) is almost identical – around 22% for raw lean trimmed meat cuts.
Some other key facts about the nutritional quality of chicken:
- Chicken is really low in fat compared with other meats
- Chicken is really low in saturated fatty acids compared with other meats
- All meats provide a wide range of vitamins and minerals, and different meats may provide these at different levels. For example, beef and lamb contain more iron and zinc that chicken meat, but chicken is one of the best sources (and highest of all meats) of niacin, an important nutrient for energy metabolism.
If you want to compare the nutritional content of different meats, here is a simple tool you can play with that allows you to select different meats and compare their nutrient profiles. This tool uses data available from NUTTAB (2010 version), the Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) online database of the nutritional composition of Australian food stuffs.
Make sure you compare like with like (for example, only compare raw with raw, cooked with cooked; or highest quality cuts with their equivalent in other meat types, as I have done in the example used below to illustrate the sort of information you can generate).
Remember that different cuts of chicken vary in terms of their nutrient profile. This is particularly the case for fat levels. Since most of the fat in chicken is in the skin, cuts which are generally eaten with skin-on or which have a high proportion of skin, such as wings, will have a higher fat content than cuts generally eaten with skin off, like breast fillet. Fortunately (a) it is easy to remove the skin and to trim any surplus fat from chicken meat and, (b) breast meat is not only the leanest part of the chicken, but it represents almost half of the edible meat you get on a whole chicken (representing between 41 and 49% of the total weight of edible chicken on a carcase).
You can also use our online comparison tool to compare the nutrient content of different cuts of chicken, or different cooking styles.
So, feel free to feel good about eating chicken…it’s a great source of nutrition!