While veganism or vegetarianism has risen over the last few years, American consumption of meat hasn't failed to follow the trend. This begs the question, which meat is healthiest, dark meat vs white meat?

As with all things in life (yes, even wine, I was surprised too), there are pros and cons of each of these types of meat. Here, I give you the low-down to help you decide which is the healthiest.

Dark Meat

steak, beef
Joyce Zhan

The meats that fall into this category include: beef, bison, pork, venison, veal, and duck.


Dark meat gets its red coloring from the high amounts of myoglobin. This is because these meats are generally taken from the muscular tissue of the animal, which are high in protein and iron. Chicken thighs are actually darker than the breast because of the muscles in their legs (though they're still both considered white meat).

The specific type of iron generally found in dark meat—which tends to have more iron in general in comparison it to white—is called heme iron, which is more easily absorbed by the human body than the minerals found in other meats. 

A link between heart disease and dark meat consumption does have certain grounds. In the dark meat vs white meat battle, dark meat tends to be higher in cholesterol, which clogs up on our arteries, but it also has the heart disease-fighting nutrient, taurine. So, there's actually more of a balance than we thought.


Dark meat has been linked to certain types of cancer, such as breast and colorectal, but it's not that simple. It's the overindulgence of this meat that lead to the increase, not the meat itself. Then there's the issue of processing.

When looking at dark meat vs white meat, dark meat is one of the more processed foods (think bacon, hot dogs, that super questionable lunch meatloaf). Because of this, it's been suggested that the way in which we raise the animals and process their meat causes some of the harmful effects

In the end, if you can get grass-fed, less-processed forms of your favorite dark meats, you'll be better off.

Best Ways to Consume

Jessica Suss

If at all possible, go for leaner beef. Also, lowering the heat when you cook helps the beneficial molecules not freak out and lose their shape, and thus you reap all the nutritional benefits of that juicy steak.

Need some recipe inspo? Chili and stew are great ways to let that meat simmer and keep the flame low. Or, to help with that balance, make sure to add vegetables to your meal with stuffed bell peppers and zucchini boats.

White Meat

chicken breast, sauce, meat, vegetable, chicken
Michelle Rodriguez

The meats that fall into this category include: chicken, turkey, and all types of fish and seafood. 


rice, vegetable, meat, risotto, sauce
Meredith Davin

The main difference between dark meat vs white meat is fat content. To put it simply, white meat is leaner. For those dieting or watching their fat intake, chicken is the choice. 3.5 oz of chicken packs 173 calories. Beef? 205.

While there is some fat in chicken, it's not what you think at first glance. It boasts 110mg of omega-3s, six times more than what beef has to offer. Fat gets a makeover here, friends.


Had we left chicken in its natural state and had we not messed with it like we do most natural things, it would have few nutritional draw-backs, save for lacking the wide array of vitamins darker meat offers, like thiamin and riboflavin. But alas, this is not a perfect world.

Most of the chickens raised in the US (about 9 billion) are treated with hormones to make them grow faster. Some were actually fed arsenic, which is generally used as rat poisoning. Love my mashed potatoes with a side of death.

Now, I'm not saying to never eat chicken, but to be wise about it. Know where the meat comes from, and try to look for organically raised, free-range chickens if possible.

Best Ways to Consume

basil, vegetable, lettuce, chicken, cheese, salad, spinach
Vernell Dunams

As with dark meat, cooking with low heat (and not chucking it in a pool of oil) helps to maintain the nutritional benefits of chicken and keep your meals healthy. Slow-cooking is a great way to accomplish this, and you can even have a slow cooker in your dorm room!

Adding vegetables and even fruit will help you diversify the nutrition of any recipe, and will nourish your body without taking away from the taste.

wasabi, meat, tuna, rice, seafood, fish, sashimi, salmon, sushi
Jocelyn Hsu

It's really not a matter of dark meat vs white meat when it comes to health, but rather a matter of self-control and moderation. Too much of anything can be a bad thing, and yet denying your body either of these meats is not the right choice either. Chew on, loves.