Red meat and protein

Last updated: October 2015

Protein is essential for growth, maintenance and repair of the body, and can also provide energy.  Protein is made of amino acids, some can be synthesised in the body, whilst others – essential amino acids – cannot.  Essential amino acids need to be consumed in the diet to maintain good health. 

Red meat (and in some cases meat products) is an excellent source of high biological value protein because it contains the eight essential amino acids that the body cannot make.  Red meat contains, on average, 20-24g of protein per 100g (when raw) and cooked red meat contains 27-35g of protein per 100g (cooked weight).  As meat is cooked, the water content decreases and the nutrients become more concentrated, therefore the protein content increases. Lean red meat contains a higher proportion of protein than fattier cuts. 

Energy, fat and protein content of lean and untrimmed cuts of red meat (per 100g; UK figures)

Meat (barbequed or grilled)
Energy kJ (kcal) Fat (g) Protein (g)
Rump steak - lean and fat 849 (203) 9.4 29.5
Rump steak - lean 741 (176) 5.7 31.2
Leg joint of lamb - lean and fat 986 (236) 13.0 29.7
Leg joint of lamb - lean 879 (210) 9.6 30.8
Pork leg joint - lean and fat 885 (213) 15.2 19.0
Loin chops of pork 450 (107) 2.2 21.7

Source: Chan et al. (1995)(1)

How Much Protein?

In the UK, on average, adults aged 19 or over need 0.75g of protein per kg per day.  Extra protein is required for growth in children, growth of the foetus and maternal tissue in pregnant women and producing milk while breast feeding.  

Protein and Weight Loss and Maintenance

Protein has been found to contribute to our feeling of fullness (satiety) more than fat and carbohydrate (2). Improving satiety helps restrict our subsequent food intake, reducing the temptation to snack.  Incorporating additional lean protein into a calorie-reduced moderate fat diet, as well as improving the palatability of the diet also improves your ability to stick to the diet.    

In conclusion 

Lean red meat supplies the essential amino acids required for growth and maintenance.  The leaner the meat, after cooking, the more concentrated the source of protein.  Eating protein rich foods such as lean red meat may help to curb hunger between meals and may help to facilitate weight loss and weight maintenance.

Please visit for more information.


(1) Chan W, Brown J, et al. (1995). Meat, Poultry and Game. Supplement to McCance and Widdowson’s The Composition of Foods. London, MAFF
(2) Stubbs RJ et al Eur J Clin Nutr, 1999:53 (1): 13-21