Red meat and iron


Iron is essential for the formation of haemoglobin in red blood cells. It also plays an important role in the immune system and is required for normal energy metabolism.

Lack of iron in the diet can lead to iron deficiency or anaemia, which is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in the UK.

It is estimated that one in three women is iron deficient. Those most at risk of risk of deficiency are children, teenagers and pregnant and menstruating women.

The haem iron in red meat is estimated to contribute 10 -15% of total iron intakes (1), but because of its higher bioavailability it could contribute up to 40% of total iron absorbed; generally less than 10% of non-haem iron, from plant sources, is absorbed (2).

Other sources include green vegetables, fortified breakfast cereals, bread, pulses, dried fruit and nuts.

For more information on red meat and iron visit

(1) SACN (2010) Iron and Health. The Stationery Office London

(2) L Wyness et al (2012) Red meat in the diet: an update Nutrition Bulletin, 36, 34-7