By Dr Laura Wyness, PhD, RNutr

SENSATIONALISED headlines surrounding the dietary impacts of red meat have led to a society where consumers are increasingly cautious of eating meat.

Recently, there has been a substantial shift in the dialogue surrounding what constitutes a balanced diet, with a wealth of conflicting information on foods like red meat.

Spikes in vegetarianism and veganism has fed the idea that cutting meat from the diet entirely is the healthiest choice. Consequently, most age, sex population groups now have a red meat intake below the UK Government’s recommended maximum 70g day intake (NDNS, 2019).

However, this may be contributing to worrying statistics when looking at the data from the UK’s National Diet and Nutrition Survey. It revealed inadequate iron intakes in women and girls, with more than half (54 per cent) of teenage girls between 11 and 18 and more than a quarter (27 per cent) of adult women aged 19 to 64 with iron intakes below the lower recommendation (NDNS, 2018). Iron is one of the most important nutrients found in red meat and is essential in making red blood cells which carry oxygen around the body. Too little iron can result in a lack of energy, shortness of breath, heart palpitations and susceptibility to infections.

Vegetarians are more likely to have lower iron stores than meat eaters. Although vegetarian and vegan diets encourage a rich intake of vegetables and grains, the nutrients from red meat are readily absorbed by the body. Including some red meat in the diet can actually enhance the absorption of iron from plant sources.

Within the context of a healthy diet, red meat provides a rich source of high quality protein and essential nutrients including iron, zinc, selenium, vitamin D and vitamin B12.

Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) is encouraging those conscious of their red meat intake to consider the source of their meat instead of removing it from their diet. Complementing a diet rich in vegetables and wholegrains with Scotch Beef PGI, Scotch Lamb PGI or Specially Selected Pork that’s from a traceable source will have a positive impact on health. For example grass-fed beef has been shown to contain less fat overall than grain-fed beef. It also has many beneficial omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants such as vitamins A and E (Daley et al 2010; McAfee et al 2011).

Red meat also provides nutrients that are more easily absorbed by the body than from non-meat food sources, making it an efficient way to ensure you’re getting the vital vitamins and minerals needed to function well. This can be particularly important for older adults and those with a small appetite or recovering from illness as it’s a nutrient-dense food, providing large amounts of nutrients in a small portion.

This aligns with QMS’s Meat with Integrity campaign which aims to raise public awareness of the Scottish red meat industry’s stringent animal welfare and sustainability credentials. By showcasing the industry’s world-renowned quality assurance schemes, QMS hopes to give consumers the knowledge they need to make informed decisions about the meat they are consuming, allowing them to incorporate the best quality red-meat into a flexitarian diet and encouraging them to eat better meat when they decide to do so.

For more information about Meat with Integrity and for recipe inspiration visit