Which Has More Protein: Chicken or Beef? A Comprehensive Comparison

Protein is an essential macronutrient that plays many important roles in the body. Choosing protein sources that are high quality and fit into a balanced diet is key for overall health. Two of the most popular protein-rich foods are chicken and beef. But when it comes to protein content, which one reigns supreme?

An Overview of Chicken and Beef Protein

Chicken and beef are both high-quality sources of complete protein, meaning they provide all the essential amino acids our bodies need.


  • A 3 ounce serving of cooked chicken breast contains approximately 26 grams of protein.

  • Skinless, boneless chicken breast is one of the leanest cuts of chicken available.

  • Other cuts like chicken thighs and drumsticks are slightly higher in fat and calories.


  • A 3 ounce serving of lean cooked beef provides around 22 grams of protein.

  • Extra lean cuts like sirloin or tenderloin have the most protein with the least fat.

  • Fattier cuts like ribeye or brisket have slightly less protein per serving.

So at a glance, it’s clear that chicken breast contains more protein per serving compared to most cuts of beef. But it’s helpful to look closer at the full nutritional profiles.

Comparing Protein in 100 Grams of Chicken Breast and Lean Beef

Looking at a 100 gram serving, which is about 3.5 ounces, further highlights the differences between chicken and beef protein.

Chicken Breast (Skinless)

  • Protein: 31 grams
  • Fat: 3 grams
  • Calories: 165

Chicken breast is one of the leanest forms of chicken available. With a high protein to calorie ratio, it’s an excellent choice if you’re looking to increase protein without significantly increasing overall calorie intake.

Skinless chicken breast is low in fat, especially saturated fat. It’s also a good source of niacin, vitamin B6, selenium, and phosphorus.

Lean Beef (Top Sirloin)

  • Protein: 29 grams
  • Fat: 4 grams
  • Calories: 179

Cuts like top sirloin are some of the leanest beef options. However, beef still contains more fat and calories per serving compared to chicken. It has a slightly lower protein to calorie ratio.

On the plus side, beef is rich in other nutrients like iron, zinc, and vitamin B12. It also contains more creatine, which may benefit muscle development.

Chicken Contains More Protein by Weight

Comparing protein content by weight clearly shows that chicken emerges as the winner for protein density.

Every 100 grams of cooked chicken breast with skin contains about 31 grams of protein.

The same weight of cooked lean beef contains around 26 grams of protein.

Overall, chicken contains about 18% more protein per gram than cooked lean beef.

Therefore, if you’re trying to maximize protein intake while controlling calories, fat, and portions, chicken breast is the better choice. More protein can be obtained from a smaller serving size.

Other Factors to Consider

When choosing between chicken or beef as a regular protein source, it’s important to look at the full nutrition profile while accounting for your individual needs and diet goals.

Benefits of Chicken

  • Higher in protein and lower in fat per serving
  • Contains less saturated fat than beef
  • Rich in nutrients like niacin, selenium, and vitamin B6
  • Very versatile with many cuts and cooking methods

Benefits of Beef

  • Good source of highly bioavailable iron and vitamin B12
  • More creatine to support muscle growth
  • Rich in nutrients like zinc and phosphorus
  • More savory, beefy flavor enjoyed by many

Focus on Diet Quality

At the end of the day, both chicken and beef can be part of a healthy, well-rounded diet. Focus on getting a variety of lean, high-quality protein foods rather than just one type.

Aim for reasonable portion sizes and choose healthy cooking methods like baking, roasting, or grilling instead of frying. Enjoy both chicken and beef while emphasizing veggies, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds for fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

Maintaining overall diet quality is just as important as comparing individual foods. With some planning and moderation, chicken and beef can both bring valuable nutrition to the table.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is chicken or beef healthier?

Overall, chicken breast is healthier than beef when comparing similar serving sizes. Chicken has more protein, fewer calories, much less fat, and less saturated fat. However, lean beef in moderate portions can also be part of a healthy diet.

Is chicken or beef better for building muscle?

Both are great for building muscle, but chicken may have a slight edge due to its higher protein content. However, beef contains more creatine, iron, and vitamin B12 which also support muscle growth. Eating a variety of lean proteins is ideal.

Is chicken or beef better for weight loss?

Chicken breast is one of the best protein foods for weight loss due to its high protein content and low calorie count. Beef, while still a good protein source, tends to be higher in calories and fat.

Which has more iron, chicken or beef?

Beef contains significantly more iron than chicken. A 3 ounce serving of beef provides around 2.5 milligrams of iron, while chicken only has about 0.5 milligrams. Choosing beef is important for preventing iron deficiency.

Is chicken healthier than beef for cholesterol?

Chicken breast is typically lower in cholesterol compared to beef. A serving of chicken has about 70 mg of cholesterol, while beef can have between 70-95 mg depending on the cut. Both are relatively low compared to other meats and can fit into a heart-healthy diet.

Should I eat chicken or beef for dinner?

It depends on your specific dietary needs and preferences! Both are great options. Chicken may be better if you’re limiting calories or fat. Beef provides important nutrients like iron and vitamin B12. Mixing up your protein choices is healthiest.

The Bottom Line

Chicken breast contains more protein per serving and weight compared to lean beef. However, both can provide quality protein as part of a balanced diet. Focus on getting a variety of lean proteins while emphasizing whole foods like vegetables, fruits, and whole grains for optimal health.

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Which meat is highest in protein?

So there you have it: The rundown of which meats are highest in protein. Chicken breast and lean cuts of beef are top choices, offering high protein-per-gram ratios. Turkey breast, bison, venison, pork tenderloin, fish, chicken drumsticks, lean beef, lamb, and chicken thigh are also solid high-protein options.

Does chicken have more protein than beef?

Generally, both chicken and beef are good sources of protein, but beef tends to have a slightly higher protein content per 100 grams. For example: Cooked chicken breast typically contains around 31 grams of protein per 100 grams. Cooked beef (lean ground beef) can contain around 26 grams of protein per 100 grams.

Is beef better than chicken for building muscle?

Chicken is the go-to protein source for athletes and bodybuilders. But beef also contains a high level of protein and a significant amount of creatine, which helps produce lean muscle much more quickly. The level of protein found in both protein and beef varies, but the differences are minor.

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