The advertisements prepared by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association comparing the fat content of chicken breast and certain cuts of beef prove an important point: in terms of both total fat and saturated fat, skinless chicken breast is superior to virtually any cut of beef. For example, a cooked, 3-ounce portion of skinless, boneless chicken has approximately 3 grams of total fat, while choice sirloin steak – even with visible fat trimmed – has approximately 10 grams of fat and beef tenderloin has 12.
In a fair comparison of the average nutritional values of the “leaner” cuts listed by NCBA, beef has more than twice the total fat and almost three times the saturated fat of chicken breast. The comparison made by NCBA is apparently based only on the “select” grade, which is the leanest and toughest grade usually sold in supermarkets. Furthermore, the values given by NCBA are, in most cases, lower than those given by the web site of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference (http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/cgi-bin/nut_search.pl), even for the “select” grade.
Nutritional experts agree that consumers should watch the total fat content of their diets, not just the saturated fat. The U.S. government’s nutritional guidelines recommend that “foods high in fat should be used sparingly” and that within the same food group (such as meat and poultry), consumers should choose “lower fat options among these foods.”
Chicken breast also checks in at 141 calories per 3-ounce serving, while the cuts listed by NCBA average 174. More desirable cuts, such as tenderloin, pack around 200 calories per 3-ounce serving.
In terms of total nutrition and the role of meat and poultry in a nutritious, healthful diet, chicken is still the best choice.
It should also be noted that many of the cuts listed by NCBA are roasts that take a hour or two to cook, whereas chicken breast cooks in minutes. Consumers are busy people today, and many do not have time to make pot roast. Chicken is perfect for today’s busy lifestyle.
No wonder consumption of chicken (measured on a retail weight basis) surpassed beef in 1992 and has exceeded beef ever since. In 2003, Americans are expected to consume nearly 82 pounds of chicken per person compared to approximately 65 pounds of beef. Furthermore, beef consumption per capita is well below historical levels – it was close to 80 pounds per year in the mid-1980’s – while chicken consumption has been growing. Beef consumption per capita has been stagnant for several years and is expected to drop due to relatively high prices. These factors undoubtedly explain NCBA’s interest in advertising against chicken.
The National Chicken Council represents integrated chicken producer-processors, the companies that produce, process and market chickens. Member companies of NCC account for approximately 95 percent of the chicken sold in the United States.
CHICKEN & BEEF: FAT & CALORIE COMPARISON
Per 3-oz cooked serving – 85 grams
Product Total fat (grams) Saturated fat (grams) Calories
Chicken breast, meat only, roasted 3.0 0.9 141
Products featured in NCBA ads
Beef eye of round, all grades, roasted 4.6 1.7 145
Beef, top round, all grades, braised 5.4 1.9 178
Beef, eye of round, choice, roasted 5.4 2.0 153
Beef, top round, choice, braised 6.0 2.1 184
Beef tip round, all grades, roasted 6.6 2.4 162
Beef chuck, clod* steak, all grades, braised 9.1 3.2 187
Beef, top sirloin, fat trimmed, all grades, broiled 8.5 3.3 183
Beef, chuck, clod* roast, fat trimmed, all grades, roasted 9.2 3.3 176
Beef, top sirloin, fat trimmed, choice, broiled 9.8 3.9 195
Average values 7.2 2.6 174
Beef tenderloin, fat trimmed, select, broiled 10.6 4.1 195
Beef tenderloin, fat trimmed, all grades, broiled 11.2 4.3 200
Beef tenderloin, fat trimmed, choice, broiled 12.2 4.7 207
Data from the USDA NAtional Nutrient Database for Standard Reference search engine http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/cgi-bin/nut_search.pl
*”Clod” is the traditional term for beef “shoulder.”