Skip to Content

Is ground turkey healthier than ground beef?

Ground turkey and ground beef are two popular choices of ground meat. Both can be quite versatile and used in recipes like burgers, meatballs, tacos, chili, and more. But when it comes to nutrition, there are some key differences between ground turkey and ground beef worth considering.

Nutritional comparison

Below is a nutrition comparison between 80% lean ground beef and 93% lean ground turkey, based on a 4-ounce uncooked serving:

Nutrient 80% lean ground beef 93% lean ground turkey
Calories 287 160
Fat 23g 7g
Saturated fat 9g 2g
Cholesterol 90mg 90mg
Sodium 75mg 65mg
Protein 19g 21g

As you can see, ground turkey is significantly lower in calories and fat, especially saturated fat, compared to regular ground beef. However, ground beef and ground turkey contain similar amounts of cholesterol and protein.

Lower in calories and fat

One of the biggest differences between ground turkey and ground beef is the fat and calorie content. Ground turkey is considerably leaner, with 93% lean ground turkey packing 160 calories and 7 grams of fat per 4-ounce serving. Comparatively, 80% lean ground beef contains 287 calories and 23 grams of fat for the same serving size.

The lower fat content of ground turkey is partly why it’s lower in calories. Fat contains 9 calories per gram, while protein and carbs contain just 4 calories per gram. So foods higher in fat tend to be higher in calories as well.

Saturated fat intake is a particular concern when it comes to red meats like beef. Consuming too much saturated fat from foods like ground beef has been linked to increased cholesterol levels and heart disease risk. Ground turkey contains about a third as much saturated fat as 80% lean ground beef.

Similar protein and cholesterol

While ground turkey is lower in calories and fat compared to ground beef, both contain high quality complete protein with all 9 essential amino acids. A 4-ounce serving of ground turkey or ground beef supplies around 20-21 grams of protein.

Both meats also have similar amounts of cholesterol. A 4-ounce serving of ground beef or ground turkey contains around 90 milligrams of cholesterol. For healthy adults, consuming 300 mg or less of cholesterol per day is recommended.

Ground turkey pros

Here are some of the main benefits that make ground turkey a healthier choice compared to ground beef:

Lower in calories and fat

As shown in the nutrition comparison earlier, ground turkey is significantly lower in both total fat and saturated fat compared to regular ground beef. The lower fat content cuts down overall calories as well.

Less red meat

Turkey is considered a white meat while beef is a red meat. Some research shows that regularly replacing red meat with healthier protein sources like poultry may have heart health benefits.

More iron

Ground turkey contains slightly more iron than ground beef, with 4 ounces providing around 10% of the RDI for iron versus 8% in ground beef. Iron is important for delivering oxygen throughout the body and preventing anemia.


Ground turkey can be used in place of ground beef in just about any recipe. Burgers, meatloaf, chili, tacos – you name it. This makes it easy to reap the nutritional benefits of ground turkey.

Ground beef pros

While ground turkey may be the healthier choice overall, here are some benefits that ground beef has to offer:

More zinc

Ground beef contains a little more zinc than ground turkey, providing around 30% of the RDI per serving compared to 22% in ground turkey. Zinc supports a healthy immune system and wound healing.

More B12

Ground beef is an excellent source of vitamin B12 providing over 50% of the RDI per serving. Ground turkey has about half as much B12.

Higher in creatine

Creatine is a compound that helps supply energy to muscles. It’s found naturally in meat and fish. Ground beef contains slightly more creatine per serving compared to poultry.

Richer flavor

Some people find that ground beef simply has a heartier, beefier, and more savory flavor profile compared to ground turkey.

Cost comparison

Cost is another factor to consider when choosing between ground turkey and ground beef. Here’s how the prices generally compare:

  • Ground turkey: $3-4 per pound
  • 80% lean ground beef: $4-5 per pound
  • 90% lean ground beef: $5-6 per pound

Ground turkey is typically the most budget-friendly choice. Prices do vary based on sales, promotions, and other factors though. Sometimes ground beef goes on sale for a comparable price to ground turkey.

You may want to buy ground beef when it’s marked down in price and use it for dishes where fat content isn’t as big of an issue. Then use leaner ground turkey for healthier recipes the rest of the time.

Health risks

There are some health risks to consider with both ground beef and turkey:

Food poisoning

Raw ground meats are more prone to bacterial contamination compared to whole cuts of meat. That’s why proper handling, cooking, and storage are important to avoid food poisoning.

Both ground beef and turkey should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160°F to kill any bacteria present. Refrigerate raw ground meat within 2 hours and use within 1-2 days.

Saturated fat

While ground turkey is relatively low in saturated fat, the higher amount in ground beef is a nutritional drawback. Consuming too much saturated fat can negatively impact cholesterol levels and heart health.


Dietary cholesterol was once thought to play a significant role in blood cholesterol levels. However, research now shows saturated fat intake has a much bigger influence over cholesterol levels for most people.

Still, it’s wise not to consume too much cholesterol if your levels are a concern. Both ground beef and turkey contain around 90 mg cholesterol per serving.


Processed ground meats like patties and seasoned varieties can be high in sodium. Consuming too much sodium can increase blood pressure in salt-sensitive individuals. Check labels and choose no salt added or low sodium options when available.

Environmental impact

The production of beef also comes with a higher environmental cost compared to poultry:

  • Beef production requires more feed, land, water, and energy compared to turkey.
  • Cows also produce more greenhouse gas emissions than poultry.
  • Raising beef cattle creates more reactive nitrogen that pollutes waterways.

So from an environmental standpoint, ground turkey also has some advantages over conventionally produced ground beef.


Ground turkey is generally the healthier choice compared to ground beef. It’s significantly lower in calories, fat, and saturated fat. Ground turkey can easily replace ground beef in most recipes for a leaner option.

However, ground beef does have some nutritional benefits like more zinc, vitamin B12, and iron. It also costs less than ground turkey, making it a budget-friendly protein buy when on sale. For best results, try mixing up ground turkey and lean ground beef in recipes to reap their various benefits.