Most New Zealanders eat red meat within amounts in accordance with national and international dietary guidelines, and should continue to enjoy approximately a 150g raw portion of lean beef and lamb 3-4 times per week as part of a balanced diet with plenty of vegetables to fulfil their nutritional requirements. According to the latest National Nutrition Survey, men were eating an average of 64g lean beef and lamb per day, and women 38g per day, down from the previous survey. The global recommendations from the World Cancer Research Fund state up to 500g cooked (or 750g raw) red meat can be eaten.
When trimmed of visible fat, lean red meat is low in fat. For example, a 100g portion of cooked beef silverside or shin contains around 2% fat; and the average of lamb cuts at only 4.8%. All beef and lamb displaying the New Zealand Beef and Lamb Quality Mark will be trimmed to a maximum 5mm fat, which can be further trimmed at home. A significant amount of New Zealand beef and lamb qualify for the Heart Foundation's Two Ticks, by having a saturated fat content of no more than 4% (roughly 8% total fat or less). The Heart Foundation of New Zealand recommends 100-185g of lean meat can be eaten on most days.
Lean beef and lamb also contain some of the important oils found in olive oil and fish oils. These include the beneficial monounsaturated fat found in olive oil plus a small amount of omega 3s found in oily fish. Only small amounts of fatty meat and meat products should be eaten by people with heart disease and all visible fat should be trimmed.
Protein-rich lean beef and lamb reduce hunger and help you feel full for longer, so are great if you’re watching your weight. Beef and lamb also provide iron, zinc and B vitamins without too much fat or too many calories.
There is no scientific evidence to show eating lean red meat causes any type of cancer.The causes of cancer are many and complex. Overall eating and lifestyle habits are more important factors than specific foods. Obesity and a lack of physical activity are now acknowledged as the greatest risk factors for diet-related cancers. The most recent recommendation from the World Cancer Research Fund is to consume up to 500g cooked red meat per week; average beef and lamb intakes in New Zealand currently sit below this level at around 400g/week. The key focus in terms of cancer prevention should be to avoid smoking, limit sun exposure and alcohol intake, maintain a healthy body weight, and be physically active.
A meatless diet can be adequate nutritionally but needs careful planning to ensure requirements are met. Iron, zinc, protein and vitamin B12 demand particular attention. Plant-based protein foods, such as beans and pulses, contain substances, such as phytates, which prevent iron and zinc being used so easily. Up to 80% more iron and 50% more zinc will be required when eating these meat alternatives.
Some studies have shown lower rates of death from conditions such as heart disease, in vegetarians, although it is likely much of this effect can be achieved by not smoking, by exercising more and by consuming a diet higher in fruits, vegetables and fibre. It is difficult to disentangle which features of a vegetarian diet, if any, may be protective, and there is currently no evidence to suggest meat eaters should change to a vegetarian diet for health reasons.
There are two types of iron: haem and non-haem. Haem iron, found in meat and fish, is absorbed better than non-haem iron, found in legumes, cereals, fruit and vegetables. For example, the amount of haem iron in a slice of lamb's fry is four times greater than the amount of non-haem iron in a cup of boiled spinach.
Red meat is an excellent source of iron, but including it regularly in the diet will not lead to an excess iron intake for most healthy people. In fact, having too little iron is much more likely to be a problem. The most common iron overload condition in New Zealand is hereditary haemochromatosis, a genetic condition causing poor control of iron absorption. This condition is managed by therapeutic phlebotomy - in other words, the removal of blood on a regular basis – not by the avoidance of meat.
The body is able to digest meat protein very easily, digesting around 94%. This is similar to eggs, milk and fish and much higher than protein in plant foods such as beans. Meat will generally leave the stomach within 2-3 hours and be fully digested in 4-6 hours. The human digestive tract is well designed to digest meat and absorb its wide range of essential nutrients such as iron, zinc and vitamin B12.
Given the high levels of obesity in New Zealand, it is clear today’s diet is far from ideal. Despite the outside signs of over-consumption, we still see worrying levels of underlying nutritional deficiency amongst Kiwis. Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency in industrialised countries; New Zealand is no exception. Women and young children are particularly vulnerable, with a surprisingly high number of Kiwi women going short of iron and zinc. Studies in the South Island have shown improved zinc levels in women eating red meat. Estimates of iron deficiency amongst New Zealand babies range from 4% with iron deficiency anaemia to 20% with iron deficiency without anaemia. For this reason, the Ministry of Health recommends introducing meat as an early complementary food. Toddlers often fare worse than babies, due to irregular eating patterns and a reduced intake of breast or iron-fortified formula milks. A regular intake of red meat has been shown to prevent a decline in iron stores amongst New Zealand toddlers. The 2002 National Children’s Nutrition Survey also showed vitamin D insufficiency in 31% of 5-14 year olds. Most vitamin D is produced through the action of sunlight on the skin, but with increased sun protection, foods containing vitamin D are becoming an increasingly important ‘supplement’. Beef and lamb are among the few dietary sources providing vitamin D. Nutrient-dense foods, such as lean red meat, are therefore a key part of today’s diet, giving more nutrition per calorie.
You shouldn't re-freeze meat if it was previously cooked and thawed. If, however, the meat was frozen raw, thawed, cooked and then re-frozen, that is fine. This is true for any food, not just meat. You should also ensure you re-heat food until it is piping hot.
All New Zealand beef and lamb sold by New Zealand retailers comes from animals raised on pasture. The New Zealand Beef and Lamb Quality Mark is your guarantee.
The latest Ministry of Health recommendations suggest women can eat up to 100g liver once a week during pregnancy. If using liver in paté form, it should be well-cooked and heated to over 70°C before before eating, which in practical terms, excludes shop-bought products.
The Ministry of Health advises pregnant and breastfeeding women should not eat raw or under-cooked meat. Cook meat until the juices run clear (no blood present). This would mean a steak would need to be cooked until at least medium.
Casseroles and stews, soups and mince would be perfect for freezing, although most food should be used within three months for maximum benefit and eating quality. Mince, such as for spaghetti bolognaise, will make a quick and easy meal with freshly cooked pasta, tacos or nachos/burritos, or in a cottage pie. Beef stroganoff, lasagne, lamb casseroles or pot roasts are all suitable for freezing once cooked. Allow to cool thoroughly before freezing and ensure food is well wrapped or stored in a tight-fitting container to prevent freezer burn. It is best to thaw food overnight in the fridge and reheat thoroughly.
Iron requirements are highest for pregnant women due to the iron needs of the growing baby. During breastfeeding, women are unlikely to have started menstruating again following pregnancy, so need less iron than both pregnant and non-pregnant, non-breastfeeding women.
Every baby and toddler has a different appetite and fondness of meat. Start with ½ - 2 teaspoons of any new food. From around 6 months, meat will need to be pureéd to a soft, smooth texture, progressing to soft mince from 7-8 months. Once your baby is 8-12 months, offer chopped finger foods (wedges, slices or strips).
Dividing the recipe as shown into roughly 10 portions gives you about the right amount for your son. At 2½, your daughter could have more. It’s great they enjoy liver. Grating liver into other meat or vegetable casseroles is another way to boost the iron content of their meals.
Have a look at our babies and toddlers recipes section. The recipes using liver should work well with kidney, including the liver spread, which is like a pâté. Unlike liver, there isn’t any restriction on the amount of kidney you can give to your baby. It is better to be guided by her, rather than try and give a specific amount. Every baby is different. One kidney, weighing about 25g, provides about 3.5mg of iron.
The meat juices from which you can make gravy do contain a small amount of iron. Whilst you might be concerned about the fat content, fat is an essential part of your baby’s diet at the moment, as his energy requirements are so high, so any fat in the meat juices and subsequently the gravy are useful for your baby, not detrimental. Many parents find mixing in a little gravy helps babies enjoy their vegetables. The reason some commercial gravies are not recommended is due to the high salt content. Home-made varieties tend to be lower. You could also introduce puréed meat into your baby’s diet now. Mixing it with some home-made gravy or juices would help to ensure the right consistency.
As long as you are not adding any further salt to the dish, the small amount of stock you need will not provide too much salt. You could, however, use water instead. Some brands of stock have lower salt levels than others, and those with a Heart Foundation Tick are now required to have a level below 230mg/100g.