Consumption of beef/veal/lamb in Australian children: Intake, nutrient contribution and comparison with other meat, poultry and fish categories


Correspondence: J Bowen PO Box 10041 Adelaide BC SA 5000. Email:



To describe reported consumption of meat for children using the 2007 Australian National Children's Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey.


One-day, weighted data are described for consumption of meat, poultry and fish consumed as ‘cuts’ and from mixed dishes. Data are presented for all children by age groups (2–3 years, 4–8 years, 9–13years, 14–16 years) and gender. Trimming practices, time and place of consumption, and nutrient contributions are described.


Ninety per cent of children reported consuming meat, poultry or fish on the day surveyed. Reported mean consumption of all beef/veal/lamb, pork/ham/bacon, poultry and fish ranged from 52 g in 2 to 3-year-old boys to 161 g in 14 to 16-year-old boys; and was lower in 9 to 16-year-olds girls; 98 g.

Mean reported consumption of beef/veal/lamb was 21–64 g for boys and 23–36 g for girls, depending on age group.

For meals where the meat, poultry or fish were identified individually, meals with beef/veal/lamb contained more vegetables (159 g) than pork/ham/bacon (50 g) and poultry (110 g). The beef/veal/lamb was fully (20%) or semi-trimmed (58%), and 49% of minced beef/veal/lamb was lean. Sixty-eight per cent of respondents reported eating poultry with the skin removed.

Across all age groups, beef/veal/lamb in cuts and mixed dishes contributed 4% of total energy, 6% of total fat, 5% of saturated fat, 46% of haem iron, 18% of zinc and 21% of long-chain omega-3 fatty acid intake.


These findings help to inform evidence-based individual or population-level recommendations.


The Australian National Children's Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey (ANCNPAS) was conducted in 2007 across Australia. To date, limited analyses have been published describing food and nutrient intake patterns.[1] The published data on meat, poultry or fish consumption are difficult to interpret as they do not include instances when meat, poultry or fish were consumed as part of a composite dish or product, such as the meat component in a hamburger.

The 2007 survey provided the first nationally representative survey data on nutrition and meat consumption in Australian children since 1995.[2-4] A secondary analysis of the 1995 survey[5] showed that 61–74% of the children, depending on age and gender, consumed beef/veal/lamb (termed ‘red meats’ in that analysis) on the day of the survey. Mean daily intakes ranged from 25 g in children aged 2–3 years to 60 g in children aged 12–15 years. Older adolescents (16–18 years) had mean intakes similar to adults at 83 g for boys and 52 g for girls. In that analysis, beef/veal/lamb contributed 3–5% of total energy in the children's diet, 13–19% of protein, 10–14% of iron (52–61% of haem iron), 20–29% of zinc and 15–26% of vitamin B12. It also contributed 5–7% of total fat and saturated fat. Around two thirds of beef/veal/lamb cuts were trimmed of fat or were lean when consumed and primarily eaten at home as part of the evening meal.

Since 1995, there has been a growing interest in children's eating habits, and potential health consequences. The purpose of this report is to provide up-to-date information on the reported meat consumption of Australian children aged 2–16 years, with a focus on beef/veal/lamb. To set beef/veal/lamb consumption in context, some equivalent data are also given for pork/ham/bacon, poultry and fish. This information will help to inform evidence-based dietary advice, and the development of nutrition and food policies and public health messages.


Subjects and dietary data collection

This study utilised the 2007 ANCNPAS data. This survey was undertaken by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) Preventative Health Flagship, the University of South Australia and I-View between February and September 2007, funded by the Australian Government's Departments of Health and Ageing, and Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and the Australian Food and Grocery Council. The survey was undertaken with assistance from an expert Technical Reference Group. Ethics approval was obtained from the National Health and Medical Research Council registered Ethics Committees of CSIRO and University of South Australia.

Complete data sets were collected for 4487 children aged 2–16 years using a personal interview in the home and a subsequent telephone interview 7–21 days later. Dietary recalls were provided by the primary caregiver for children aged 2–8 years and by the child for those aged 9 to 16 years. When the child was the primary source of dietary information, the caregiver was encouraged to provide additional detail if required. Among other things, these interviews assessed food and beverage intake in the preceding 24 hours using LINZ24 software (Otago Innovation Limited, University of Otago, New Zealand), a three pass, 24-hour dietary recall program initially developed by New Zealand for the ‘Life in New Zealand’ Survey.[6] This food intake data was converted to nutrient intake data using a specialised food nutrient database (AUSNUT2007) developed by Food Standards Australia New Zealand for this survey.[7]

Further methodological details of 2007 ANCNPAS are given in the 2007 Australian National Children's Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey User Guide.[8]

Secondary analysis methodology

Permission to conduct this work was obtained from the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing.

One-day data from the personal interview were used for all analyses, with the results weighted to reflect the Australian population as per the techniques used for the main survey.[8] Population weighting factors to correct for the non-proportionate sampling methodology of the main survey were applied to each individual's data. Weighting factors were based on age, gender and region (state/territory and capital city/rest of state). Refer to the User Guide for additional information.[8] The data from the personal interview only were used for this analysis, rather than an adjusted-mean derived from both the personal and telephone interviews. The latter is primarily used to statistically adjust nutrient intake data and is not appropriate for a food consumption analysis with highly skewed intakes (i.e. many subjects with no consumption on the day for a particular item).

It is not possible to allow for non-response bias (i.e. account for the individuals who declined to participate) by weighting factors because data were not gathered on these individuals. If the likelihood of responding is related to the nutrition and activity status in some way independent of the weighting variables used here, the weighting will not provide any correction.

All analyses in this report exclude nutrients derived from dietary supplements.

Throughout the report, the weights (grams) provided are the cooked weight of foods. All mean values shown in the tables and text are the mean of all results (including zero values for non-consumers) unless specified otherwise. Reported intakes are intended to represent the ‘reported’ intake on the day surveyed.

Categorisation of meats

Muscle meat was the primary focus of this paper; hence, organ meats and offal products (i.e. liver, beef tail, lamb's brain, pate, liverwurst and black pudding) were excluded from these analyses. Some other items were excluded from the analysis either because consumption was very low (e.g. kangaroo—two occasions) and/or because the content of meat, poultry or fish in other low consumption items was difficult to estimate either from available databases or manufacturers' data (e.g. certain commercial soups, bread toppings, sauces, beef tail, some bread or bread rolls topped with cheese and bacon; baked beans, canned in ham sauce).

The AUSNUT2007 database[7] for foods (excluding supplements) categorises foods into food groups with hierarchical levels of sub-classification with 22 major, 113 sub-major, 510 minor and 3875 sub-minor food groupings. The major food groups ‘meat, poultry and game products and dishes’ and ‘fish and seafood products and dishes’ encompass all meats, poultry, game, fish and seafood, and mixed dishes containing these items where the meat, poultry, game, fish or seafood is the major component (i.e. where the meat contributes the greatest measure by weight in the dish, e.g. bolognese sauce).

Meat also occurs as a minor component by weight in mixed dishes and products, and therefore is categorised into other major food groups. For example, meat pies, hamburgers and sausages are categorised into ‘cereal-based products and dishes’ as the cereal component provides a greater proportion of the dish on a weight basis than the meat. The meat in the meat pie, hamburgers and sausages thus contributes both its weight and its nutrients to the ‘cereal-based products and dishes’ category and not to the ‘meat, poultry and game products and dishes’. The analyses in this study were designed to capture all beef/veal/lamb, pork/ham/bacon, poultry and fish consumed on the day of the survey, including that eaten as part of such mixed dishes.

For some analyses in this paper, meat, poultry or fish items were classified into three categories: ‘cuts’, ‘mixed dishes where meat was the major component’ and ‘mixed dishes where meat was a minor component’. Because of some variation in how consumption was recorded during the dietary recall into the LINZ24 software, these categories were not always clearly defined and some meats from mixed dishes may be recorded as single ‘cut’ items.

For example, a respondent could have individually recalled the ingredients of a ham sandwich as ham, bread and margarine without indicating that these items were consumed as a mixed dish. In these cases, in the absence of any information indicating that the items were consumed as components in a mixed dish, the ham was classified as a ‘cut’. Examples of items which were recorded individually and categorised as ‘cuts’ were baked, fried or roast meats; poultry or fish, including steaks, fillets, chops, or cutlets; some mince, kebab meat, stir-fry strips, chicken breast, drumstick, thigh or wing; ham, bacon, salami or corned meats.

The second category, ‘mixed dishes where meat was the major component’, included dishes or products which were recorded into the LINZ24 software as an itemised recipe in which meat, poultry or fish formed a major component of the dish (by weight), or as a meat containing mixed dish (recipe unknown) where meat was a major component (according to classification in AUSNUT2007). This category included crumbed, battered, marinated or sauced items, stews, curries, casseroles or stroganoff, pasta sauces, stir-fry dishes, meat balls, meat loaf, schnitzel, burger patties, sausages or saveloys, chicken nuggets or fish fingers.

‘Mixed dishes where meat was a minor component’ included itemised recipes where the meat, poultry or fish ingredients were a minor component of the dish (by weight), or as a meat containing mixed dish or product (recipe unknown) where meat was a minor component (according to classification in AUSNUT2007). This category included meat, poultry or fish pie, whole burgers (including bun), taco, lasagne, nachos, burrito, enchiladas, doner kebab, cannelloni, pasta bakes, pizzas, spaghetti in meat sauce, sushi, some salads, quiche, sandwiches and rolls, muffins, croissants and wraps.

To assess overall beef/veal/lamb, pork/ham/bacon, poultry or fish consumption, the intake from all sources was estimated from both individually recorded meat, poultry or fish items, and from mixed dishes where meat, fish or poultry was a major or minor component.

It was generally possible for participants to identify weights of individual ingredients of a meal containing meat, poultry or fish. However, some participants were uncertain of the relative amounts of the ingredients, and in these cases the weight of the mixed dish was recorded and the meat component of the dish was later estimated using recipes from the AUSNUT2007 database. Thus, the meat component of a spaghetti Bolognese or a curry could appear as an individually recorded item (an itemised recipe) where the weight is specified during the recall or as part of a ‘mixed dish’ with the meat either a major or minor component where the meat component may be known or has to be derived with reference to recipes.

Where recipe information from the participant or AUSNUT2007 database was not available, the designation was based on the percentage of meat in the mixed dish (e.g. sausages) as estimated for the earlier analysis of the 1995 National Nutrition Survey data[5] (see Table 1). For some manufactured and processed foods, data such as manufacturer's labels were used to determine meat component, where available.

Table 1. Estimated meat content of mixed dishes containing meat (where recipes were not known)
Meat containing mixed dishMeat contenta (%)
  1. aPercent by weight estimate based on Baghurst et al.[5]
Pasta dishes10
Rice dishes10
Pies, hamburgers, sausage rolls20
Mexican foods10
Stews, casseroles, curries, meat-based pasta sauce30

In the text and tables, the term ‘processed meats’ has been applied to items described in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code Standard 2.2.1—Meat and Meat Products[9] and used in most major epidemiological studies, namely:

‘Processed meat means a meat product of no less 300 g/kg meat where meat either singly or in combination has undergone a method of processing other than boning, slicing, dicing, mincing or freezing and includes manufactured and/or dried meat flesh in whole cuts or pieces. Examples of processing methods include: smoking, drying, salting, curing, fermenting and pickling. Processed meats include manufactured meats and cured and/or dried meat flesh such as frankfurts, ham, prosciutto, bacon and salami’.

Note that this description does not apply to traditional Australian sausages which are separately described in the code as: ‘Sausage is meat that is minced or comminuted meat or a combination thereof which may be combined with other foods encased or formed into discrete units but does not include meat formed or joined into the semblance of meat’.

It is useful to have information about population average consumption which includes both consumers and non-consumers on the day of survey, and consumers only (defined as those children consuming more than 0 g of meat, poultry or fish on the day of the survey). ‘Consumers only’ data were used to determine the average amount consumed per eating occasion.

In this report, the term ‘total’ meat refers to the beef/veal/lamb and pork/ham/bacon categories, plus poultry and fish, with the exclusions noted previously.

Trimming classification

Trimming of fat from meat has been a public health message promoted as a means of restricting total and saturated fat intake, and energy intake. To assess the level of trimming practices, meat trimming classifications (fully trimmed, semi-trimmed, untrimmed) were determined using the AUSNUT2007 food descriptions. The term ‘fully trimmed’ describes meat trimmed of both internal and external separable fat; ‘semi-trimmed’ refers to meat trimmed of external separable fat only; and ‘untrimmed’ refers to meat where external and internal fat remains.[9] The descriptions relate to the final form of the food as eaten. It is not known what proportion of trimming was done before and after purchase. For example, the designation ‘semi-trimmed’ could reflect purchase of meat with a fat selvedge which was trimmed by the consumer, or meat that was purchased semi-trimmed. The trimming categorisation related to all cuts of meats except mince. Mince categorisations were determined using the AUSNUT2007 food descriptions and included lean (including premium and low-fat), regular and hamburger (higher fat) versions.

Time and place of consumption

As place and time of consumption data can provide insights into the context of food consumption, the National Survey collected data on time and place of consumption for each food eaten. The time of consumption was recorded to the nearest five minutes for every item in the LINZ24 software.

Foods consumed at the same time as meat (accompanying foods) were deemed to be those that were consumed within half an hour of that meat consumption. These data were used to report on key foods consumed at the same time as meat, poultry and fish; and included total vegetables, potato, potato products (chips, wedges, gems), vegetables other than potato, rice and pasta/noodles.

Location was categorised as being consumed in the home, any other residence (e.g. friend or relative), place of purchase (e.g. café or fast food outlet), institution (e.g. school, preschool, after-school care), during leisure activity (sport, music lesson, cinema, park), during transport (e.g. bus, car, walking) or other.

Nutrient contribution, including estimation of haem and non-haem iron

The contribution of the various meat, poultry and fish categories to intake of total energy and selected nutrients was compared with other major food groups. The nutrients selected for comparison were either pertinent to beef/veal/lamb (e.g. protein, long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, iron and zinc) or were a key nutrient for children (e.g. total energy, fats, cholesterol). To calculate the contribution to energy and nutrient intake, the contribution of various food categories to total energy intake was calculated for each child and then averaged across the relevant age/gender groups.

AUSNUT2007 does not supply separate figures for haem and non-haem iron. Therefore, estimates were calculated using the proportions of haem iron in foods based on the work of Hulten et al.[10] and Monsen et al.[11] on individual foods and mixed dishes as described by Baghurst et al.[5] as follows:

  • For foods containing no meat, poultry or fish, all iron was considered to be non-haem iron
  • For beef, lamb and poultry cuts (i.e. described individually), the iron content was considered to be 55% haem iron and 45% non-haem iron
  • For beef, lamb and poultry mixed dishes and products, the iron content was considered to be 45% haem iron and 55% non-haem iron
  • For pork, bacon, ham and fish cuts (i.e. described individually), the iron content was considered to be 35% haem iron and 65% non-haem iron
  • For pork, bacon, ham and fish mixed dishes and products, the iron content was considered to be 25% haem iron and 75% non-haem iron

Statistical analysis

Statistical analyses were performed using SPSS for Windows 16.0 software (SPSS Inc., Chicago, IL, USA). Descriptive statistics were used to report the proportion of participants within various categories of intakes and mean intakes. Statistical tests for significant differences were not undertaken because in large-scale surveys such as this, with the use of population-adjusted means and with large numbers of non-consumers on the day, statistical analysis can be highly complex. Further, such tests frequently render significant differences for very small mean differences across groups which may be meaningless in practice.


Proportions of children consuming beef/veal/lamb, pork/ham/bacon, poultry or fish on the day of the survey

Table 2 shows the proportion of Australian children who reported consuming beef/veal/lamb, pork/ham/bacon, poultry or fish on the day surveyed. About 90% of children (87–92% of boys and 86–91% of girls) reported consuming some form of meat, poultry or fish on the day of the survey. For both boys and girls up to 9–13 years of age, there was a small increase in the proportion consuming beef/veal/lamb, pork/ham/bacon, poultry or fish. However, the proportion consuming these items decreased in 14 to 16-year-old girls.

Table 2. Proportion (%) of the total sample consuming meat/poultry/fish on the day of the survey, for all children and by sex and age group
 Age group (years)
All childrenTotal8791929090
 Unspecified meat/poultry1823242523
 Unspecified meat/poultry2632333431
 Unspecified meat/poultry2433293330

Mean intakes

The mean intake of beef/veal/lamb, pork/ham/bacon, poultry or fish consumed on the day surveyed is shown in Table 3. With the exception of 2 to 3-year-old children, the mean intake of all meats was generally greater for boys (102 g for all boys; 52–161 g across the age groups) than for girls (80 g for all girls; 54–98 g across the age groups). For boys, the total mean intake was highest for beef/veal/lamb (21–64 g) followed by poultry (16–62 g). For 2 to 8-year-old girls, the total mean intake was also highest for beef/veal/lamb (23 g) followed by poultry (17–22 g). In 9 to 16-year-old girls, poultry intake was moderately higher (37–41 g) than beef/veal/lamb (34–36 g). The mean intakes for pork/ham/bacon and fish were less than 10 g each for all boys and girls.

Table 3. Mean intakes of meat, poultry and fish (cooked weight, g) on the day of the survey for all boys and girls, and by age groups (including non-consumers)
 Age group (years)
 Unspecified meats/poultry7913147
 Unspecified meats/poultry691399

Portion size

The mean amount consumed of each specific type of meat does not reflect portion size because it includes all ‘zero’ values (i.e. not all respondents ate each type of meat on the day surveyed). To obtain a measure of portion size, the average amount actually consumed (i.e. the amount eaten at one occasion) for beef/veal/lamb, pork/ham/bacon, poultry or fish was calculated by excluding non-consumers (Table 4).

Table 4. Average amount meat/poultry/fish consumed per eating occasion on the day of the survey, for all boys and girls, and by age group (consumers only, cooked weight, g)(a)
 Age group (years)
  1. aConsumers include anyone who ate any amount of the relevant item on the day surveyed.
 Unspecified meat, poultry3233423636
 Unspecified meats, poultry3232443837

Poultry and fish were consumed in the largest quantity per eating occasion (85 g boys and 74 g girls for poultry; 88 g boys and 74 g girls for fish), followed by beef/veal/lamb (75 g boys; 66 g girls). Pork/ham/bacon (usually as ham or bacon) was consumed in the smallest portion size (38 g boys; 32 g girls). Children's portion size generally increased with increasing age, except portion size of beef/veal/lamb which was lower in 14 to 16-year-old girls, compared with 9 to 13-year-old girls. In the older age groups, portion sizes were typically higher for boys than girls.

Types of products consumed

Table 5 shows the relative proportion of all meats/poultry/fish consumed as either beef/veal/lamb, pork/ham/bacon, poultry or fish, and the relative contribution of individually recorded ‘cuts’ and mixed dishes to the total intake of each category. On the day surveyed, approximately one third of all meat was consumed as beef/veal/lamb (34–37% across age groups), and almost a third was poultry (27–37% across age groups). The relative proportion consumed as poultry increased with age. The proportion of meat consumed as pork/ham/bacon (11–16%) and fish (6–12%) made up a small percentage of all meat consumed on the day surveyed.

Table 5. Percent contribution (% of total cooked weight) of major meat categories (beef/veal/lamb, pork/ham/bacon, poultry, unspecified meat/poultry and fish) to overall intake on the day of the survey, including the relative contribution of ‘cuts’ and ‘mixed-dishes’ for all children by age group
 Age group (years)
  1. aThe term ‘cuts’ refers to items recorded individually on the survey database. Mixed dishes were items recorded in recipe form on the database where the meat, fish or poultry was a major or minor component.
% beef/veal/lamb/eaten as    
Individually recorded cuta40444036
Mixed dish—meat major component47353436
Mixed dish—meat minor component13212628
% pork/ham/bacon eaten as    
Individually recorded cuta46384242
Mixed dish—meat major component8688
Mixed dish—meat minor component46565050
% Poultry eaten as    
Individually recorded cuta52474437
Mixed dish—meat major component33343237
Mixed dish—meat minor component15192426
Unspecified meat/poultry1111118
% Unspecified meat/poultry eaten as    
Individually recorded cuta20162513
Mixed dish—meat major component60424237
Mixed dish—meat minor component20423350
% Fish eaten as    
Individually recorded cuta50564450
Mixed dish—meat major component42333333
Mixed dish—meat minor component8112317

Table 5 shows the types of meat consumed as ‘cuts’ and used in major or minor component mixed dishes. Individually recorded cuts comprised 36–44% of the intake of beef/veal/lamb. Mixed dishes where beef/veal/lamb comprised a major component accounted for a further 34–47% of consumption of beef/veal/lamb, and 13–28% of beef/veal/lamb came from mixed dishes where meat was a minor component. Most of the individually recorded beef/veal/lamb cuts were in the form of steaks, chops, cutlets etc. (63%), with 20% consumed as mince, 10% as roast and 7% as processed items (Table 6). The major contributors to mixed dishes with beef/veal/lamb as the major component were sausages (27%), mince (21%) and stir-fry (11%). For mixed dishes with beef/veal/lamb as the minor component, the major contributor was mince (56%). A large proportion of the meat in beef/veal/lamb mixed dishes could not be classified by respondents (Table 6).

Table 6. Percent contribution (%) of types of meat consumed as ‘cuts’ or meat containing ‘mixed dishes’ (major and minor component) for each major meat category (beef/veal/lamb, pork/ham/bacon and poultry) for all children
Meat categoryType% contribution to category
For individually recorded ‘cuts’  
Beef/veal/lambTotal steaks, chops, cutlets, etc63
Leg roast10
Pork/ham/baconTotal steaks, chops, cutlets etc25
Leg roast9
Processed (e.g. ham, bacon)62
Drumstick, thigh, wing24
Whole roast5
For mixed-dishes—meat major component  
Pork/ham/baconProcessed (e.g. ham/bacon)21
Diced leg7
Leg schnitzel6
For mixed dishes—meat minor component  
Pork/ham/baconProcessed meat (e.g. ham/bacon)84

For pork/ham/bacon, individually recorded cuts (38–46%) and mixed dishes where pork/ham/bacon was a minor component (46–56%) accounted for almost equal amounts, but mixed dishes where pork/ham/bacon was a major component accounted for only 6–8% (Table 5). For the individually recorded pork/ham/bacon items, most (62%) were in the processed form (ham or bacon), with steaks, chops and cutlets contributing 25% and roast 9% to total individual pork/ham/bacon items (Table 6). Processed meats such as ham and bacon were also the major contributors to both kinds of mixed dishes.

The relative intake of individually recorded cuts (37–52%) for poultry compared with mixed dishes (32–37% poultry a major component; 15–26% poultry a minor component) was similar to that for beef/veal/lamb (Table 6). The most popular poultry cuts were breast (56%) and drumstick/thigh/wing (24%). Breast meat was also the major contributor to both types of mixed dishes.

For fish, cuts (44–56%) and major component mixed dishes (33–42%) contributed more than minor component mixed dishes (8–23%) (Table 5).

For all mixed dishes (major or minor; meat, poultry or fish), dishes such as tacos/pizza/burgers (31–39%), sandwiches/rolls/wraps (17–26%), pasta/noodle dishes (11–17%) and other dishes including pies (12–15%) were the most commonly consumed (Table 7). Pasta/noodle dishes made up a higher proportion of meat-containing mixed dishes for 2 to 3-year-old children (17%) compared with other age groups (11–12%).

Table 7. Proportion (%) of the total number of meat/poultry/fish containing mixed dishes and beef/veal/lamb containing mixed dishes, consumed as various types of dishes for children by age group
 Age group (years)
For all meat, poultry, fish mixed dishesFor beef/veal/lamb mixed dishes
Pasta/noodle dish1712111133231921
Rice-based dish31231122
Soup-based dish43333321
Taco, pizza, burger, etc.3839363137463931
Other dishes (e.g. pies)121414159151822

For mixed dishes containing beef/veal/lamb (Table 7), taco/pizza/burger meals remained the main type of dish consumed (31–46% of all beef/veal/lamb dishes). Pasta/noodle dishes were the second most common (19–33%), and then casserole/stew/curry (7–13%). For 2 to 3-year-old children, one third of beef/veal/lamb dishes were pasta/noodle dishes, whereas this type of dish constituted 19–23% of beef/veal/lamb dishes consumed by older children. Beef/veal/lamb was less likely to be consumed as a sandwich/roll/wrap compared with other meats.

Meat trimming practices

Table 8 shows trimming level for beef/veal/lamb and poultry and type of mince meat consumed. The majority of beef/veal/lamb cuts consumed by all children (2–16 years) were eaten trimmed (78%). Of these trimmed cuts, 58% were reported as being semi-trimmed and 20% were fully trimmed (lean). Nine per cent of children reported consuming untrimmed beef/veal/lamb cuts and 9% reported that the trimming status of the cut was unknown. For minced beef/veal/lamb, 49% of items consumed on the day of the survey were lean mince, 47% were regular mince and 5% were hamburger mince.

Table 8. Proportion (%) of total beef/veal/lamb cuts, minced beef/veal/lamb meat and poultry consumed on the day surveyed in relation to fat-trimming practices for all children, and by age group
 Age group (years)
  1. a‘Fully-trimmed’ means trimmed of all external and internal fat; semi-trimmed means trimmed of external fat.
  2. b‘Lean mince’ includes premium mince and low-fat mince; ‘Regular’ includes mince NFS, and NFS trimming.
  3. c‘Poultry without skin/fat’ includes lean, not specified, kebab, mince. Poultry with skin or fat includes descriptor: skin + fat.
Beef/veal/lamb cutsa     
Trimming unknown7118109
Minced beef/veal/lambb     
Lean mince5244465249
Regular mince (mid fat)4647543947
Hamburger mince (higher fat)290105
Without skin/fat8364606668
With skin/fat1531373028
Unknown type25344

Most poultry was consumed without the skin or fat; 83% of 2 to 3-year-old children consumed poultry without skin or fat, decreasing to 60–66% for 4 to 16-year-old children.

Accompanying foods

To assess whether meal composition differed depending on the meat type, the amount of accompanying total vegetables, total potatoes, potato products only, vegetables other than potato, rice and pasta/noodles were assessed where the meat, poultry or fish were identified individually (Table 9). Beef/veal/lamb items were generally accompanied by more vegetables (159 g) than pork/ham/bacon items (50 g), poultry items (110 g) and fish items (107 g).

Table 9. Mean intakes (cooked weight g) of potato, other vegetables, rice and pasta/noodles consumed in the same meal as individually recorded meat, poultry and fish items for all children, and by age group
Accompanying foodType of cutAge group (years)
Total vegetablesBeef/veal/lamb89126191230159
Potato totalBeef/veal/lamb2850779162
Chips, wedges, gems, etc.Beef/veal/lamb34475
Vegetables other than potatoesBeef/veal/lamb617511513998

Mean intake of ‘vegetables other than potato’ for all children was highest for individually recorded beef/veal/lamb items (98 g) and lowest for pork/ham/bacon items (36 g). Poultry items (66 g) and fish items (65 g) were associated with similar quantities of ‘vegetables other than potato’. Intake of vegetables accompanying fish was highest in children aged 9–13 years (96 g) and decreased to 59 g in 14 to 16-year-old children. For poultry, the amount increased from 63 g in 9 to 13-year-old children to 103 g in children aged 14–16 years (Table 9).

Mean intake of total potato for all children (14 g) and ‘potato products such as chips/wedges/gems etc’ (3 g) was low in pork/ham/bacon meals. Intake of total potato with beef/veal/lamb (28 g), poultry (23 g) and fish (22 g) was similar for 2 to 3-year-olds. Total potato intake increased to a greater extent with age when accompanying beef/veal/lamb items (91 g in 14 to 16-year-olds) compared with poultry (58 g) and fish (53 g) (Table 9). In contrast, the amount of potato products (i.e. chips/wedges and gems) was higher for poultry (15 g) and fish meals (18 g) compared with beef/veal/lamb (5 g) or pork/ham/bacon meals (3 g).

The amount of rice consumed was generally highest with poultry (31 g) and lowest with pork/ham/bacon (9 g), with fish (19 g) and beef/veal/lamb (13 g) in between (Table 9). Pasta/noodles were generally consumed in greater amounts in conjunction with individually recorded fish items (23 g), followed by beef/veal/lamb (19 g) with less accompanying poultry (13 g) or pork/ham/bacon (7 g).

Place and time of consumption

Table 10 shows the proportion of meat/poultry/fish by cuts and mixed dishes—minor and major—consumed at various locations. Most meat, poultry and fish consumption primarily occurs in the home environment; 71–83% of cuts, 67–82% of major mixed dishes and 44–61% of minor mixed dishes were consumed in the home. Institutions (e.g. schools) were also important places of consumption for mixed dishes containing minor amounts of meat, accounting for 39% of minor mixed dishes containing pork/ham/bacon (predominantly ham), 23% containing poultry and 26% containing fish.

Table 10. Proportion (%) of total meat intake for each major meat grouping by place of consumption and form of consumption (cut, mixed dish–major, mixed dish–minor) for all children
Place of consumptionFormBeef/veal/lambPork/ham/baconPoultryFish
Mixed dish–meat major component77756782
Mixed dish–meat minor component58445561
Other residenceCut11773
Mixed dish–meat major component10677
Mixed dish–meat minor component7650
Place of purchaseCut3568
Mixed dish–meat major component43135
Mixed dish–meat minor component1241311
Mixed dish–meat major component7284
Mixed dish–meat minor component16392326
Leisure activityCut1211
Mixed dish–meat major component3333
Mixed dish–meat minor component4412
During transportCut0110
Mixed dish–meat major component0231
Mixed dish–meat minor component3232

The greatest amounts of beef/veal/lamb were consumed in the evening between 6:00 and 7:00 p.m. This was consistent for meat consumed as an individually recorded item (‘cut’) or in the form of a mixed dish, and for both boys and girls of all age groups (Figure 1).

Figure 1.

Time of consumption of red meat cuts, major or minor dishes (total grams consumed) for males and females (2–8, 9–16 years).

Where meat was a minor component of a mixed dish (e.g. sandwiches, pies) there was also a peak at lunchtime for all types of meats. The amount of individually recorded beef/veal/lamb and poultry items consumed in the middle of the day was low for all boys and girls. In contrast, the intake of individually recorded pork/ham/bacon items which were mainly processed meat such as ham and bacon, show a second peak in intake at approximately 1:00 p.m. for boys and girls and at 9:00 a.m. for boys. The 9 to 16-year-old boys however, show a unique additional increase in intake at 4:00 p.m.

For poultry, 2 to 8-year-old children showed a greater peak in intake at approximately 6:00 p.m. compared with the middle of the day, while the intake by 9 to 16-year-olds peaked similarly at both 1:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.

Nutrient contribution of beef/veal/lamb meat and other meats, poultry and fish

Table 11 shows the contribution of major food groups to total energy intake. Beef/veal/lamb from all sources provided 4% of total energy intake in all children. The major food groups which made the largest contribution to energy intake for all children were milk and milk products (18%), cereal and cereal products (22%), and cereal-based products and dishes (16%). Other meat, poultry and fish whole mixed dishes contributed 13% to energy intake for all children.

Table 11. Proportion (%) of total energy (kJ) from the various meat categories and other major food groups for all children, and by age group
All childrenAge group (years)
  1. aIncludes energy from both the meat and other recipe components.
Mean energy intake (kJ)61337345903710 1798174
Beef/veal/lamb total33444
Whole mixed dishesa with beef/veal/lamb34554
Other meat, poultry and fish cuts33444
Other meat, poultry and fish whole mixed dishesa913141713
Non-alcoholic beverages56776
Cereals and cereal products2223222122
Cereal-based products and dishes1215171816
Fats and oils33222
Fish and seafood products and dishes11111
Fruit products and dishes86435
Egg products and dishes11111
Milk products and dishes2418151418
Dairy substitutes10000
Seed and nut products and dishes11111
Savoury sauces and condiments11221
Vegetable products and dishes55676
Legume and pulse products and dishes11011
Snack foods23333
Sugar products and dishes22222
Confectionery and cereal bars35554
Alcoholic beverages00000
Special dietary foods00000
Infant formulae and foods10000

Beef/veal/lamb provided 10–14% of the protein intake, 5–7% of total fat, 4–6% of saturated fat, 7–8% of mono-unsaturated fats, 3% of polyunsaturated fats, 18–26% of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids and 12–15% of cholesterol across the age groups (Table 12). It also contributed 7–10% of total iron, 44–49% of haem iron and 15–22% of zinc (Table 13).

Table 12. Proportion (% total) of protein and fats supplied by the various meat categories and other major food group contributors for all children, and by age group
All childrenAge group (years)
  1. aIncludes nutrient contribution from both the meat and other recipe components.
Beef/veal/lamb total1011121412
Whole mixed dishesa beef/veal/lamb67998
Other meat, poultry and fish cuts1010121211
Other meat, poultry and fish whole mixed dishesa1421232721
Cereals and cereal products1920181719
Cereal-based products and dishes711131411
Milk products and dishes3223191723
Total fat     
Beef/veal/lamb total57676
Whole mixed dishesa with beef/veal/lamb56876
Other meat, poultry and fish cuts44655
Other meat, poultry and fish whole mixed dishesa1520182118
Cereal-based products and dishes1818222320
Milk products and dishes3324212025
Vegetable products and dishes55786
Saturated fat     
Beef/veal lamb total45565
Whole mixed dishesa with beef/veal/lamb46776
Other meat, poultry and fish cuts33444
Other meat, poultry and fish whole mixed dishesa1016161915
Cereal-based products and dishes1520242521
Milk products and dishes4937323037
Mono-unsaturated fat     
Beef/veal/lamb total77887
Whole mixed dishesa with beef/veal/lamb66887
Other meat, poultry and fish cuts56776
Other meat, poultry and fish whole mixed dishesa1419202219
Cereal-based products and dishes1418202119
Milk products and dishes2517151418
Vegetable products and dishes778106
Snack foods35665
Polyunsaturated fat     
Beef/veal/lamb total33333
Whole mixed dishesa with beef/veal/lamb33444
Other meat, poultry and fish cuts44655
Other meat, poultry and fish whole mixed dishesa1418192118
Cereals and cereal products1918171617
Cereal-based products and dishes1417201918
Vegetable products and dishes910121311
Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids     
Beef/veal/lamb total1821212621
Beef/veal/lamb cuts911101110
Whole mixed dishesa with beef/veal/lamb109101511
Other meat, poultry and fish cuts3427302329
Other meat, poultry and fish whole mixed dishesa2627303329
Fish and seafood products and dishes5346484046
Egg products and dishes57566
Milk products and dishes87667
Beef/veal/lamb total1212141513
Whole mixed dishesa with beef/veal/lamb33333
Other meat, poultry and fish cuts77998
Other meat, poultry and fish whole mixed dishesa1111141312
Cereal-based products and dishes914171714
Egg products and dishes1417121314
Milk products and dishes3726232127
Table 13. Proportion (% total) of iron, haem iron and zinc (mg) from various meat categories and other major food group contributors all for children, and by age group
All childrenAge group (years)
  1. aHaem iron was estimated using published whole of diet methodologies for estimation of haem and non-haem iron (Monsen et al.[11]; Hulten et al.[10]; as described in Baghurst et al.[5]).
Iron (total)     
Beef/veal/lamb total789108
Whole mixed dishes with beef/veal/lamb55786
Other meat, poultry and fish cuts33443
Other meat, poultry and fish whole mixed dishes912141613
Cereals and cereal products4342383640
Cereal-based products and dishes811131411
Vegetable products and dishes889109
Haem irona     
Beef/veal/lamb total4946444646
Beef/Veal/Lamb cuts1719151316
Whole mixed dishes with beef/veal/lamb3227293330
Other meat, poultry and fish cuts2221211720
Other meat, poultry and fish whole mixed dishes2833253731
Cereal-based products and dishes469117
Beef/veal/lamb total1517192218
Whole mixed dishes with beef/veal/lamb99111311
Other meat, poultry and fish cuts66877
Other meat, poultry and fish whole mixed dishes1117192217
Cereals and cereal products2324222022
Cereal-based products and dishes610111310
Milk products and dishes2720171615
Vegetable products and dishes55676


This report is based on secondary analysis of the 2007 ANCNPAS and describes meat, poultry and fish intake in Australian children and adolescents aged 2–16 years, with a focus on beef/veal/lamb.

Study limitations

There are limitations to the survey methodology and therefore the data and results should be interpreted with consideration to these. The survey used a 24-hour diet recall methodology which is prone to under/mis-/non-reporting and inaccurate portion estimates. Interviews were conducted primarily with the child when aged over 9 years which is likely to further increase under/mis-/non-reporting. The summer period was under-represented during the sampling period.

Methodological considerations for the current analyses include the possibility that non-consumers on the day surveyed may not typically be non-consumers, highlighting that one day of intake does not reflect usual intake. There was also a potential misclassification of mixed dishes where the recipe was known[6] and individual ingredients were specified during the dietary recall. An informed assumption was made to classify these recipes from the ingredients recalled (i.e. stir-fry, casserole, nachos, sandwich). The meat and meat-based nutrient content of mixed dishes where ingredients were not recalled was determined using both recipes published in AUSNUT2007, and in some cases by estimation (Table 1). Hence, the actual amount of meat (and other ingredients) in that dish may have been under- or overestimated. In addition, the nutrient database did not provide data on the haem content of foods; therefore, previously published guides for estimating haem and non-haem content of foods were used.[10, 11] Despite these known limitations of the survey methodology and secondary analysis, the results presented here are based on the most recent national nutrition survey and these are the most representative data of Australian children's current food and nutrient intake.

Comparison with Australian guidelines

These results indicate that the majority of Australian children consumed some meat, poultry or fish on the day of the survey (87–92% of boys and 86–91% of girls), with the mean intake being larger for boys compared with girls. Although dietary recommendations relate to ‘usual’ intake, the combined mean consumption of beef/veal/lamb, pork/ham/bacon and poultry from this survey (one day intake) can be generally compared with the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating (AGHE).[12] The AGHE guidelines offer two eating patterns. One eating pattern recommends 0.5–1 serve of ‘meat and meat alternatives’ a day for children aged 4–7 years, 1–1.5 serves for children 8–11 years and 1–2 serves for children 12–18 years; note that age groups in the survey and the AGHE differ. One serve is defined as 65–100 g/serve. The ‘meat and meat alternatives’ includes a mixture of protein sources, including fish, eggs, legumes, nuts and seeds.

On the day surveyed, 4 to 8-year-olds reported consuming a combined mean of 75 g of beef/veal/lamb, pork/ham/bacon and poultry. Mean intake of fish in this age group was 7 g. Previously published survey data show that this age group also reported consuming a mean of 10 g of eggs and egg products, 8 g of legumes and legume products, and 3 g of nuts and seeds.[1] Accordingly, 4 to 8-year-old children consumed approximately 103 g from the ‘meat and meat alternatives’ group, as defined by the AGHE. This is consistent with the upper recommendation of 100 g/day for this age and food group.

Similarly, the AGHE recommendations for ‘meat and meat alternatives’ are 100–150 g for children aged 8–11 years and 100–200 g for children aged 12–18 years. Reported consumption of beef/veal/lamb, pork/ham/bacon and poultry was 105 g for 9 to 13-year-olds and 129 g for 14 to 16-year-olds. For 9 to 13-year-olds, there was an additional 12 g from fish, 7 g from eggs and egg products, 9 g from legumes and legume products, and 3 g from nuts and seeds,[1] totalling 136 g. For 14 to 16-year-olds, there was an additional 8 g from fish, 9 g from eggs and egg products, 12 g from legumes and legume products, and 5 g from nuts and seeds,[1] totalling 163 g. These intakes are within the AGHE recommendations.

Meat, poultry and fish consumption patterns

The beef/veal/lamb category was consumed by a higher proportion of the sample compared with pork/ham/bacon, poultry or fish, with 43–47% of boys and 38–40% of girls consuming it on the day of the survey (42% of all children). Poultry and pork/ham/bacon were consumed by 34% of all children aged 2–16 years. Fish was consumed by 10% of all children on the day surveyed. Despite the higher proportion of children consuming beef/veal/lamb compared with other meat types, the mean quantity consumed was similar to that of poultry. This is because the average amount of poultry per eating occasion was higher than other meat types.

For the individually recorded items, most of the beef/veal/lamb was consumed as steaks, chops, cutlets or roasts. However, mince was also common, consumed both as an individually recorded item and as part of mixed dishes. For individually recorded items, breast was the most common poultry cut (56%) and pork was mainly consumed as ham or bacon (62%). A high proportion (16–58%) of respondents reported a ‘miscellaneous/unknown’ type of cut in mixed dishes for all meat types. Correctly allocating these items to a specific cut is likely to alter these data; for example, 58% of pork/ham/bacon mixed dishes–major component did not identify the meat cut. This would have further implications for the nutrients derived from these items.

These analyses also describe the different type of meals in which meat, fish and poultry are commonly consumed and the context in which they were eaten. For the individually recorded items, more total vegetables were consumed with beef/veal/lamb meals and the least amount consumed with pork. Meats were consumed primarily within the home in the evening, corresponding with family meal times. Previously published results of this survey report that one quarter of children in the younger age groups and 10% or fewer older children met the guideline for vegetable intake.[1] Public health initiatives which aim at increasing vegetable intake in Australian children would be well placed to focus on the evening meal.

Nutrient contributions

‘Cereals and cereal products’ were the leading source of Australian children's iron intake, although the iron supplied through this food group was non-haem iron which is less efficiently absorbed than haem iron. The more absorbable haem iron is derived mainly from haemoglobin and myoglobin in meat.[10, 11] The beef/veal/lamb category was the primary source of haem iron in children's diets. Beef/veal/lamb cuts and mixed dishes provided 46% of haem iron intake, with all other meat, poultry and fish cuts and mixed dishes combined providing 51%.

Iron deficiency in childhood and adolescence can potentially lead to impaired immune function, reduced work capacity and a less efficient response to exercise.[13, 14] Female adolescents are a potentially high-risk group, due to increased iron requirement for growth and menstrual losses. Eleven per cent of 14 to 16-year-old girls did not meet the estimated average requirement for iron on the day of the survey.[1] These findings show that girls' beef/veal/lamb intake peaked at age 9–13 years (both mean intake and amount consumed per eating occasion), and these items are the key source of haem iron. In contrast, mean beef/veal/lamb intake in boys increased from 43 g in the 9 to 13-year-old age group to 64 g in the 14 to 16-year-old age group. The amount consumed per eating occasion for boys also increased by 10 g across these age groups. This observation in older girls may be partially explained by an overall pattern of under-reporting by this age and gender group.[1] However, these girls also have low dairy intake[1]; therefore, a better understanding of the dietary preferences of adolescent girls may be valuable.

Twenty-nine per cent of total zinc came from beef/veal/lamb (cuts and mixed dishes containing these meats), and 24% from other meat, poultry and fish. A further 32% of total zinc came from cereal and cereal products plus cereal-based products and dishes. Phytates from plant-based foods interfere with zinc absorption and availability. While this survey does not provide phytate intake data, cereal-based foods make a large contribution to Australian children's diets: a total of 38% of energy came from cereal and cereal products plus cereal-based products and dishes. Previous studies have found that intakes of available zinc are often low for adolescent girls.[15]

The 2007 survey was the first national nutrition survey to provide long-chain omega-3 fatty acid intake data. While fish are a rich source of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, and indeed contributed 46% to total intake, the amount of beef/veal/lamb consumed by children made it a moderate contributor to total long-chain omega-3 fatty acid intake (21%). This reflects the predominantly grass-fed nature of Australian meat (making beef/veal/lamb a good source of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids) and the high consumption of beef/veal/lamb relative to fish consumption.

The proportion of children in this survey who met the dietary guideline for consuming <10% of total energy from saturated fat[1] was low, ranging from 16% to 22% depending on age group. One consideration regarding red meats such as beef/veal/lamb is their contribution to dietary fat and saturated fat. However, the contribution of beef/veal/lamb to the children's diet was comparable with that of other meat, poultry and fish cuts, and was a smaller source of total fat and saturated fat compared with milk products and dishes (contributing 30–49% of saturated fat) and cereal-based products and dishes (contributing 15–25% of saturated fat). Most children reported consuming fully or semi-trimmed beef/veal/lamb (75–81% of the items being fully or semi-trimmed). Approximately half (44–52%) of mince was classified as ‘lean’ or premium mince.

The AUSNUT2007 nutrient database indicates that premium mince (9.9 g fat/100 g) is approximately 2 g/100 g lower in fat[7] compared with other types of mince (11.8 g/100 g for regular; 12.1 g/100 g for hamburger mince). For steaks, cutlets, etc., fat content increases by approximately 2 g/100 g from fully to semi-trimmed, and a further 2 g/100 g from semi-trimmed to untrimmed. Thus, if all children chose fully trimmed cuts or lean mince versus untrimmed (based on the reported mean intake of beef/veal/lamb, 34 g), children's fat intake would be reduced by approximately 1 g/day at the population level. While this difference is small, Australians should be encouraged to continue to consume trimmed meat. The contribution of ‘other meat, poultry and fish whole mixed dishes’ to total saturated fat intake ranged from 10% to 19%. Thus, improved trimming practices and consideration of ingredients added to these dishes are potential opportunities to further reduce saturated fat in Australian children.

Comparison with previous findings

The intake of meats in Australian children and their contribution to nutrient intake were last assessed in 1995.[2, 3] The contribution of beef/veal/lamb to energy and key nutrients (zinc, iron, and fat) appears to have decreased since 1995.[3] For example, energy from beef/veal/lamb has decreased from 6% to 4%, and the contribution of beef/veal/lamb to iron has decreased from 14% to 8%. However, there are key differences in the survey methodologies, age groups, nutrient databases and secondary analyses approaches which make interpretation of differences between the 1995 and 2007 surveys complicated. Thus, it is likely that these are not true changes, but rather explained by the differences in survey and secondary analyses methodologies.

Current intake of meat, poultry and fish in Australian children is broadly in line with current recommendations. Beef/veal/lamb is a key source of haem iron, and a valuable contributor to long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, zinc and protein in the diets of Australian children. Beef/veal/lamb is mostly consumed ‘trimmed’ of fat. Factors that influence beef/veal/lamb consumption in adolescent girls warrant further investigation.