Disclaimer: This is a simple overview of the nutritional comparison between consuming a burger made with ground beef versus a burger made with ground turkey. I am not here to debate the ethical or environmental side of things, as this is already a controversial enough topic. However, we do advocate consuming grass-fed, pasture-raised, organic meats whenever possible.
Now, with that being said, let’s begin the face-off.
Raise your hand if you’ve been told to save calories and fat, you should give up beef burgers for turkey burgers? I know I’ve heard that advice more times than I can count regarding the beef vs turkey burger feud. And as a mother, I am always looking for ways to make healthy food swaps and to introduce my children to new foods. I will admit, I was replacing ground turkey in quite a few of my recipes, believing I was doing good. But how do the numbers really break down?
According to the USDA, here’s the nutritional information for a 3-ounce portion of both 93/7 ground beef and 93/7 ground turkey:
Beef vs Turkey Burger
- Calories 162
- Fat 7.5
- Cholesterol 68
- Protein 22.3
- Iron 2.4
- Zinc 5.5
- B6 .3
- B12 2.1
- Selenium 18.4
Editor’s Note: 9 Proteins That Expand Your Waist
- Calories 176
- Fat 9.7
- Cholesterol 90
- Protein 22
- Iron 1.5
- Zinc 3.2
- B6 .4
- B12 1.5
- Selenium n/a
Say what? Did I read that right?
We have been led to believe that by swapping out beef for turkey in recipes, we can enjoy more protein, as well as less calories. Yet it turns out, this is only true if you select ground turkey breast, and it is freshly ground for you. And even then, it’s pretty much a wash.
I mean, while you’re at it, you could certainly select a much less fatty cut of beef to use in your ground beef mixture, thereby kicking those health benefits up a notch. And then you’re right back here where we started.
Much in the same way there are different cuts of red meat, there are also different types of white meat. So it’s important to be mindful when discussing any type of meat to differentiate between processed and unprocessed meats. It’s also critical to be mindful of the sources of your food, and whenever possible, opt for grass-fed, organic meat and dairy.
In terms of taste, most people agree that ground beef contains more flavor than ground turkey. And the leaner the ground turkey, the less flavor it contains. This often leads to adding additional spices, one being salt. This somewhat counteracts the rationale of selecting turkey for the health benefits. In my own experience, I had to add so many additional ingredients to the ground turkey to get anyone in my household to consume it, I was already beginning to question if it was worth it.
And with ground turkey already packing more fat, cholesterol, and overall calories, it doesn’t make much sense to increase the fat ratio, which typically contains dark meat and skin, as that will kick up the cholesterol, fat, and calories even more.
Bottom line: there are many scare tactics in place today, including a movie I recently watched on Netflix (What The Health), which would have us believe that consuming red meat is the primary cause of diabetes and cancer. Red meat has gotten a bad rap for as long as I can remember, and while most meat we consume isn’t as healthful as the meats our Paleo ancestors ate, it is undeserving of the negative publicity it has received.
When included as part of a well-balanced meal plan, unprocessed, grass-fed beef is highly nutritious and contains healthy proteins, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and a plethora of nutrients which have been shown to positively affect the function of both body and brain.
After doing my own research, I’ve determined the beef vs turkey burger feud is not a battle worth fighting in my household. I’ll save my energy advocating for more fruits and vegetables.