Chicken poultry
4 min read
Nearly 90% of poultry intake worldwide is chicken meat, followed by turkey, duck and goose meat. Poultry meat is a good source of protein, zinc, vitamin B12 and essential fatty acids, including omega-3s...

What are the health impacts of chicken and poultry?

Poultry is generally lower in saturated fat compared to red meat (when the skin is removed), and although it contains some heme iron, it has a less iron than red meat (see more information about iron here). However, some poultry meat is higher in iron than others. For example, lean duck meat contains about six times the amount of iron compared to chicken, although still much less than red meat.


Unlike red and processed meat, a 2013 review of available evidence found inconclusive evidence on the relationship between poultry intake and colorectal or breast cancer risk.


According to the Australian Dietary Guidelines, one serve of lean poultry is equivalent to 80 grams (cooked weight) and there is no limit to the amount you should eat from a health perspective. However, there are other foods with a similar nutrient composition, are high in dietary fibre (for good gut health) and have a lower environmental impact, such as soy foods, nuts, seeds and legumes. The nutrition experts at Eat Sustainably encourage you to discover plant-based proteins to enjoy alongside small amounts of poultry (if you choose to eat any at all!).


What are the environmental impacts of chicken and poultry?

Globally, poultry produce less greenhouse gas emissions than beef, sheep, pork and fish, use less land than pork, beef and lamb meat (which means less clearing of forests). Yet, the overall impact of poultry is higher than eggs and plant-based protein foods that have similar nutrient compositions, such as nuts, seeds, tofu, tempeh, legumes and peas. Turkey has a higher global warming potential than chicken but is not as commonly consumed in Australia. It is not just the type of bird, the specific environmental impacts of poultry vary depending on the type of farming practices used, such as free range vs caged and what the animals have been fed. If they have been fed with largely food scraps, thereby reducing food waste this offsets some of their greenhouse gas production. 


An international commission into healthy and environmentally sustainable diets, published in the scientific journal the Lancet, recommended specific targets, both the overall goal to increase intake of plant-based foods and substantially limit animal source foods. In fact, the EAT Lancet Commission recommends every person worldwide reduces their poultry intake to around 200g per week to ensure the world can feed all 10 billion mouths by 2050. Given that not every person will reduce their intake, we support the Eat Sustainably community to reduce their intake further if this is possible for you and your family. By reducing your intake of animal based foods and increasing your intake of plant based foods, there will be better health and environmental outcomes, and there is a strong body of research to support this.


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