One of the most obvious foods of animal origin meat includes all muscle foods. Beef, pork, and lamb are considered red meat. Chicken, turkey, and duck are poultry. Finfish and shellfish are fish, but the two are often differentiated.

The protein composition of most meats is very similar. The amino acid composition of muscle protein remains relatively constant among animal species, so the value of the protein as a food remains virtually unchanged between species. The amount and type of fat in meat can vary greatly depending on the source and cut of meat. Red meat usually contains more total fat and saturated fatty acids than does poultry or fish. This fact is probably the primary reason for the decrease in per capita beef consumption and the increase in poultry consumption in the past 25 years (Fig. 1). During that time, per capita pork consumption has remained stable. One possible reason for the stability of pork consumption is the widely publicized theme that pork is ''the other white meat,'' is more healthful than beef or lamb, and is as healthful as poultry. Ocean fish have higher concentrations of the heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids than do land animals or farmed fish, a finding that has slightly increased consumption of fish such as tuna, halibut, and salmon in recent years.

Meats contain a variety of water-soluble vitamins and minerals. The B family vitamins (except thiamine, which is higher in pork) are present in about the same concentrations in most meats, whereas minerals, especially phosphorus, zinc, and iron, are more variable and found in higher concentrations in red meats. Vitamin B12 is found virtually only in foods of animal origin, and zinc and iron in meats are more bioavailable than the same minerals found in plant sources. Iron in meat is in the heme form, which is much more easily digested than the form found in plants.[1] Zinc absorption is facilitated by amino acids such as histidine, methionine, and cysteine.[2] These amino acids are found in the protein of meat, so zinc can be readily absorbed.

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