Red meat (beef, pork, lamb and mutton) is a good source of high quality protein, as well as vitamins and minerals, such as iron, zinc and vitamin B12. National dietary data shows that, on average, red meat contributes 7% of iron; 14% of zinc; 6% of selenium; and 15% of vitamin B12 intakes in diets of adults in the UK. Red meat is also a useful contributor to vitamin D intake.
Although a higher amount of iron in the diet comes from cereals and cereal products (38%), the iron provided by red meat (known as ‘haem iron’) is easier for the body to absorb than iron from plant-based foods. Currently, about half of teenage girls in the UK, and over a quarter of adult women, don’t get enough iron in their diet, which can increase their risk of anaemia. Vitamin B12 is only found naturally in foods of animal origin. Vegetarians who consume dairy products or eggs can get enough from their diet, but vegans need to consume foods fortified with B12 and/or take supplements or they may not get enough reliable sources of this vitamin.