How much red meat can you eat to remain within government guidelines?

The current UK Government advises that people who are eating more than 90g/day of red and processed meat should cut down to 70g/day to reduce the risk of colorectal (bowel) cancer.  This is in the context of a healthy, balanced diet containing plenty of plant-based foods such as wholegrains, vegetables and fruit.  

The latest National Diet and Nutrition Survey reports that the average intake of red and processed meat in UK adults is 56g, with women (aged 19-64) averaging 44g/day and men (aged 19-64) averaging 69g/day.  However, mean intakes doesn’t give an indication of range; there is considerable variation in consumption within age groups in the UK population, such as in men aged 19-64 years, where intakes vary from 0-208g/day when comparing the 2.5th to 97.5th percentile. 

Table 1. Average weights of commonly consumed meats

Type of meat Cooked weight Raw weight How to measure
Type of meat Lean beef mince*
Cooked weight 100g
Raw weight 125g
How to measure About a quarter of a 500g pack size – use the size of pack as a guide
Type of meat Beef burger*
Cooked weight 80-100g (grilled)
Raw weight 120-150g
How to measure Ready portioned
Type of meat Lean rump steak*
Cooked weight 130g* (grilled)
Raw weight 175g
How to measure About half the size of your hand
Type of meat Lean diced pork*
Cooked weight 100g
Raw weight 150g
How to measure Use the size of pack as a guide
Type of meat Lean diced lamb*
Cooked weight 100g
Raw weight 140g
How to measure Use the size of pack as a guide
Type of meat Lean beef stewing steak
Cooked weight 100g
Raw weight 125g
How to measure Use the size of pack as a guide
Type of meat Portion of roast meat**
Cooked weight 90g
Raw weight 130g***
How to measure 3 thin-cut slices of roast lamb, beef or pork, each about the size of half a slice of sliced bread
Type of meat Lamb or Pork chop (edible portion)***
Cooked weight 75g (fried or grilled)
Raw weight 110g
How to measure Ready portioned
Type of meat Sausages (2 standard size)*
Cooked weight 90g (grilled)
Raw weight 114g
How to measure Ready portioned
Type of meat Bacon (2 slices)*
Cooked weight 50g (grilled)
Raw weight 75g
How to measure Ready portioned
Type of meat Ham (1 slices)**
Cooked weight 23g
Raw weight N/A
How to measure Ready portioned

Be guided by pack size. For example if an average portion of raw weight is 125g this is a quarter of a 500g pack or around a third of a 400g pack.

* BNF portion size guide
** NHS website
*** WCRF Red and Processed Meat

Table 2. Suggestions of how meat combinations can represent about 500g maximum recommended intake over a week (using cooked weights) with meal suggestions

The portion sizes given are averages for healthy adults, based on a daily calorie allowance of 2000kcal – the amount estimated for an average, healthy weight adult woman. A smaller person or people trying to lose weight, may need smaller portions. If hand measures are used like in the example of rump steak, portion sizes will vary with the size of a person’s hands and so generally, bigger people will get bigger portions and smaller people will get smaller portions.

For high consumers of red and processed meat, NHS suggest the recommendations can be met by eating smaller portions of red and processed meat, eating these meats less often or swapping them for meat alternatives or beans and pulses.

The British Nutrition Foundation has reviewed the accuracy of the scientific content of this page (please note this does not include linked pages) on May 18, 2021.

The British Nutrition Foundation is not a lobbying organisation nor does it endorse any products or engage in food advertising campaigns.

For more information about the British Nutrition Foundation, please visit www.nutrition.org.uk